Weekly Thursday Education News Round-Up – 01/08/2019

‘Children who don’t fit? Maybe the problem is us’ – Special schools can be great, but if pupils are struggling, the solution isn’t to send them elsewhere.

I’m not an opponent of specialist education. I sent my son to a special school, after all. But, as in life, families and everything else, in special education, there is a mix of the good, the indifferent and the truly awful. The other day, I read a distressing article about restraint used on disabled children: restraint rather than de-escalation, leading to trauma, school refusal and calls to the police. The shocking abuse of disabled children should make us all stop and think.

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Robust and reliable: why networks matter – In an age where so many tools in schools and universities are online, robust networks play a vital role in supporting the infrastructure. But how can network managers ensure their best usage?

Outsourcing managed IT seems like a nice, clean option and can include any number of services, including student records, email systems, business applications, and Management Information Systems (MIS). Most outsourced, managed IT covers traditional infrastructure management and can also include storage, desktop and communications, mobility, helpdesk and technical support.

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The proportion of trainee teachers taking the school-led route has dropped for the first time in four years, new figures released on Thursday reveal.

Initial teacher training statistics for 2017-18 show that 53 per cent of final year trainees went via the school-led route, rather than through a higher education institution (HEI). In last year’s statistics 55 per cent took the government’s favoured school-led route. In 2015-16 it was 51 per cent – a huge leap from the 42 per cent in 2014-15.

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‘Significant weaknesses’ in DfE oversight of Sats – Shortcomings uncovered by government auditors in Department for Education supervision of Sats contract prompts concern from headteachers.

Official auditors have found significant weaknesses in the government’s preparedness to oversee a £109 million Sats contract. Capita was awarded the sum in July 2018 to deliver the key stage 1 tests, the key stage 2 tests and the phonics screening check from 2020 to 2024. The new contract brings together a number of services, from printing to marking, previously delivered through separate contracts.

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The number of unconditional offers handed to pupils has risen again this year, despite demands from ministers that universities curb their use of the controversial practice.

The latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that 38 per cent of 18-year-olds received a offer with some unconditional element this year, compared with 34 per cent last year. The data also shows that 67 per cent of applicants with unconditional offers missed their predicted grades, in comparison with 56 per cent of fellow students with offers that depended on their A-level grades.

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Why equal funding doesn’t mean equal opportunity – As Gavin Williamson takes over at the DfE, he should be wary of conflating levelling-up school funding with fostering social mobility, writes Natalie Perera – the circumstances and opportunities children have need to be taken into account, too.

The appointment of Gavin Williamson as education secretary is likely to have generated surprise among many in education circles. Barely a day has passed, and there is already speculation over what we can expect from the new minister. In all likelihood, it may be a number of weeks, however, before we truly grasp how Williamson might seek to make his mark at the Department for Education.

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From student experience to staff parking – how to manage the modern university estate – A time when university estates face challenges from every quarter – financial uncertainty, student satisfaction, sustainability – calls for a fresh batch of solutions. Keri Beckingham looks at some of the improvements leading the sector.

The role of university estate managers has never been more complex. In order to provide the best campus experience for students, staff and visitors, they have a lot to consider when it comes to redevelopments and new facilities. So what are the current trends and challenges they face and what can they learn from the experiences of other institutions?

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Universities are making lower offers to poor students ‘under the radar’ to avoid middle class backlash, report says.

Universities have been making lower offers to disadvantaged students “under the radar” to avoid a backlash from middle class students, a report has said. Higher education institutions have been quietly using so-called “contextual offers” as part of their admissions system in order to escape “negative reactions”, according to a research paper by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi).

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How do GCSE and A-level grade boundaries work? Grade boundaries vary each year, but why? And how are they decided upon? Check out our guide to the method behind the numbers.

Grade boundaries are set at the end of the marking period, which means it’s only once all the papers have been marked that the awarding body will set the boundaries. Although exam boards endeavour to set exam papers to the same level of difficulty each year, there will naturally be small variations in the level of challenge on the papers.

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Kemi Badenoch has been appointed by Boris Johnson as the new children’s minister, replacing Nadhim Zahawi.

The MP for Saffron Waldren joins new education secretary Gavin Williamson, long-serving schools minister Nick Gibb and returning universities minister Jo Johnson in the refreshed ministerial team at the Department for Education. The government is yet to say who will take the skills brief previously held by Anne Milton.

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How phonics took over for teaching children to read in primary schools – Poorer children benefit the most from the latest method of teaching them to read, evidence shows.

In Ark Priory Primary Academy a class of four- and five-year-olds sit in immaculate rows, enraptured by their teacher. As part of the daily routine at the state primary school in Acton, west London, Ms Beshirian holds up cards printed with basic sounds – “qu”, “k”, “w” – and the children chant them back to her in unison. Later they practise reading sentences made up of sounds they have previously rehearsed. That is a lot of fish, runs an example.

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Fear anyone placing schools at the heart of government – Past experience suggests that ministers wanting to shine a spotlight on education are more to be feared than welcomed. Is this true of Gavin Williamson?

Benjamin, the donkey in Animal Farm, has become one of my favourite literary characters. He’s seen it all: he knows that the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same – only worse. Past experience of government ministers suggests that those who want to shine a spotlight on education and want to “place it at the heart of government” are more to be feared than welcomed.

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Bringing together a school community through data harmony – CPOMS has become an ‘essential part’ of schools’ processes to support the safeguarding of children.

When it comes to bringing together a school community through data-harmony, there can be a lot of hassle involved. As Tina Holmes, deputy safeguarding officer at Woodhouse West in Sheffield, said: “Admin for safeguarding and pastoral support can be an enormous challenge, especially regarding transition.” Thankfully, Woodhouse West is one of the 10,000+ in the UK and internationally who record and monitor all safeguarding concerns and agency involvement across the whole community through CPOMS.

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The education disadvantage gap has stopped narrowing for the first time since 2011, presenting a “major setback for social mobility”, a new report has found.

Children from poorer backgrounds are finishing a year and a half behind their peers by the end of GCSEs, according to the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) annual state of education report, produced in partnership with the Fair Education Alliance (FEA). There are also vast discrepancies based on where children live, their ethnicity and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

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New figures showing that efforts to boost social mobility among poorer pupils have stalled should be a “wake-up call” for the new government, a former schools minister has said.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has revealed in its annual state of education report that, for the first time since 2011, the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their better-off peers has stopped narrowing. In fact, the gap in attainment between poorer secondary school pupils and their peers has widened between 2017 and 2018, leaving disadvantaged pupils 18 months behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs.

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How many GCSEs do students need for further education? In our new series looking at how exams work, we explore the requirements for further study beyond secondary school.

In England, young people are expected to remain in some form of education or training until the age of 18. This might be as a full-time student in a further education college, or as an apprentice or trainee with a company or institution. Either way, entry on to these courses depends on the students’ skills and academic background, largely indicated by the GCSEs (or equivalent qualifications) they have achieved.

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Tackle fake news by teaching media studies, says report – Making media studies mandatory in schools would help children to learn about disinformation on the internet, study says.

Media studies should be made mandatory in schools to prevent young people being taken in by fake news and disinformation, a research project has recommended. The project, led by the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University and funded by the US Embassy in London, looked into the problem of how to help children and young people tell whether what they read online is real or fake.

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Four ways technology can help handle the pressures of clearing day – How to handle clearing day: the power of innovative IT in UK universities.

In 2015, the Conservative government abolished the student entry cap. This means universities can now accept as many students as they want. Since then, clearing day has become to higher education what Black Friday is to the retail industry, and while universities continue to ensure students select the most appropriate course, this period is becoming increasingly critical for many institutions.

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Childminders hit with soaring costs as Ofsted registration fees increase by 23% – The childcare sector is already under pressure due to rising demand, with the number of registered childminders in England falling to 39,000.

Registration fees for childminders and nurseries are to increase by more than 22 per cent from next year, sparking fears that it will cause a fall in the already dwindling number of childcare providers. The Department for Education quietly announced plans for the annual Ofsted fees hike shortly before the Commons rose for the summer recess, in what will be seen as an attempt to bury bad news.

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University ‘conditional unconditional’ offers at record high – Ucas – Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said the organisation was ready to work with the OfS and UUK ‘on their respective upcoming admissions practice reviews’.

A record number of students received an unconditional offer this year, according to Ucas. In its report, ‘Unconditional offers – an update for 2019’, Ucas says 25% of 18-year-old university applicants received a ‘conditional unconditional’ offer, up from 23% last year. These controversial offers promise an applicant a place on the condition the offer is accepted as their first choice. The annual rise in unconditional offers is smaller than in the previous two years.

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Posted in Education News, Weekly Blog.