Weekly Thursday Education News Round-Up – 02/05/2019

Councils place ‘unlawful hurdles’ in way of parents seeking SEND support – MPs hear that councils are ‘gatekeeping’ by setting criteria for needs assessments that are not required by legislation.

Cash-strapped councils are putting “hurdles” in the way of parents seeking support for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) by setting “unlawful” criteria to receive a needs assessment, MPs have heard. The Commons Education Select Committee was told that the recommendations of SEND experts were regularly being overridden by “somebody who is controlling a budget”.

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How curriculum-led budgets optimise staffing resources – Given their significantly reduced budgets, academies need to be well-placed to make the most of available resources, says Access Group’s Jane Gibson.

The latest Department for Education accounts, published in November, show the academies sector incurred an annual deficit of more than £6bn, while the amount held in reserves and assets dropped from £43.4billion to £42.6billion. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Lord Agnew, has said in no uncertain terms that academies are capable of driving further efficiencies – the question is, how do you maximise already-lean budgets without compromising pupil attainment?

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Poorer families disadvantaged in finding school places – Research from the Education Policy Institute shows an entrenchment of the gap between rich and poor when using the appeals and waiting list system.

The first comprehensive study of the school appeals system – through which families who fail to land their first choice of secondary school can challenge the decision – has revealed some troubling iniquities. Research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows an entrenchment of the gap between rich and poor in education, with those in the least affluent areas twice as unlikely to obtain their first choice of secondary school on appeal as families in more prosperous neighbourhoods.

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Ministers will publish a breakdown of recommendations made by its team of cost-cutting advisers later this year.

The Department for Education refused a request by Schools Week last December for documents showing a breakdown of the £35 million of savings that academies minister Lord Agnew claimed his school resource management advisers had helped schools identify.

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A-level and GCSE exam papers are to be micro-chipped for first time in bid to combat online leaks – A possible criminal offence would be theft, if the exam paper had been improperly obtained from the exam board.

Exam papers are to be micro-chipped for the first time this summer in an attempt to combat online leaks, one of the country’s biggest exam boards has announced.

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How long until Ofsted fails a university for its apprenticeships? – We’ve already seen a university given a ‘requires improvement’ grade by Ofsted. But could one be rated inadequate?

Ofsted inspectors come in for plenty of stick from teachers, but they are made to work hard for their money. The watchdog inspects everything from nurseries and primary schools up to colleges and independent training providers.

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‘As Ofsted’s new framework looms, teachers must demand better CPD’ – All teachers should be pressing for better professional development and a greater role in curriculum development within their schools.

As the teaching unions’ conference season draws to a close, the call by the National Education Union to abolish Ofsted seems a legitimate way to dismantle the accountability framework that has driven the climate of fear for far too long. Sadly, systems rooted in and justified by distrust are part of a global phenomenon dominating all walks of life – though they are at their most dysfunctional in teaching. And, realistically, the inspectorate in some form is here to stay.

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School failings leave dyslexic pupils feeling ‘stupid, unvalued and guilty’ – Specialist dyslexia teachers ‘would be able to support learners, oversee and direct teaching and support provision’

Every school should have specialist support for children with dyslexia, a cross-party group of MPs has said. A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Differences, published today, says that 10-15 per cent of people have the condition, making it the “most common specific learning difference” in the UK.

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At least ten private schools are in talks with a school leaders’ union about pulling out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), with one major chain already set to move staff out.

The potential exodus could leave state schools facing further pension contribution hikes to fill a “black hole” in the scheme. Employer contributions will rise from 16.4 per cent to 23.6 per cent in September, which the Department for Education said it would fund for state schools until the next spending review.

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‘Audiobooks can give children a love of books’ – Hearing as well as seeing the words in books opens up a new world to pupils who struggle with reading.

It’s widely agreed that reading for enjoyment is an important way to develop a child’s literacy. I reckon you will find it difficult to find a sensible argument against reading being a positive pastime. All well and good – right?

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Two in five under-18s think technology should be for positive change, poll suggests – A poll of children aged nine to 18-years-old asked their opinions on technology and its purpose in society.

Two in five children aged between nine and 18-years-old think technology should make ‘positive difference in people’s lives’, a new poll suggests. The research for BT asked young people what they want to use technology for, and parents’ perceptions of the next generation’s relationship with technology.

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How can universities make research pay? – Monetising university research isn’t new, but an intensified focus on commercialisation has led to some innovative approaches in bringing products to market.

Delivering innovative research has always been at the heart of UK universities but ensuring that stellar research makes it out into the world and impacts society requires academics to tread the less clear path of commercialisation.

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Parents want ‘outstanding’ schools inspected more often, but believe short inspections are increasingly behind unreliable judgments.

Ofsted has published its annual parent survey today. A total of 1,111 parents responded to the poll, carried out in November last year. Here’s a round-up of some of the more interesting findings.

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Hundreds of teachers have seen experienced colleagues forced out to make room for cheaper workers, new data has revealed, as a union acknowledged older staff were put under “intense pressure” to leave their jobs.

A survey by Teacher Tapp of 3,568 school staff found that 10 per cent were “confident” that teachers on the upper pay scale at their school had been encouraged to leave or had been made redundant to clear space for cheaper staff.

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‘Three Ds to a first at uni should be celebrated’ – Instead of saying universities are dumbing down, praise students for turning their grades around.

I’ve been trying to get my head around the reactions to the recent Times report that a lot of people who scored less than three D grades at A level are emerging from university with first-class degrees. Predictably, some commentators saw this as further evidence that universities are dumbing down their degrees: the percentage of students awarded firsts has risen from 16 per cent to 27 per cent in the past six years. (You can hear the harsh voices: “In my day, it was fewer than 10 per cent”).

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‘Forget private schools, what about inequality in state schools?’ – Killing off independent schools wouldn’t even be a partial solution to state education’s problems.

The struggle of independent schools to find favour with the media, politicians and the public at large has rumbled on in the background for decades. Every so often it reaches the headlines.

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The government will seek to “tighten accountability” over school exclusions following a landmark review, a minister has confirmed.

Lord Agnew, the academies minister, told MPs this morning that the long-awaited Timpson review will propose that schools that exclude pupils will keep “some ownership of that child’s progress”, and that “we are proposing that the accountability be tightened”.

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The regional schools commissioner for north west London and south central England has announced he will return to the schools sector once his contract ends this year.

Former headteacher Martin Post is one of just three RSCs to have served in the role since it was created almost five years ago. Most of the original line-up has already moved on, many of them to top roles in the academies sector.

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‘Lambasting other teachers on social media is appalling’ – Social media scrums over education create a ‘climate where innovation goes to die’, argues one deputy headteacher.

In the red corner, we find the sofa-lovers and kneeling-station devotees, wielding their beanbags with malice as they eye up the competition. Over in the blue corner, the traditionalists line up smartly, passionately clutching seating plans that have been painstakingly drawn with a ruler and without so much as a throw-cushion in sight. Across the land, timelines have been filling up with insults and accusations as the sides slug it out over which set-up is best.

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Not good enough’: the words I can’t stop hearing – This teacher is close to walking away for good. Why? Exhaustion, workload and the constant – and dominating – doubt.

“Who’s she again?” I ask. My partner finally loses patience and switches off the TV: “Let’s watch this another time.” Protest is futile. “OK, can you pass me the, er, um, black thing for changing channels…? Actually, I might just go to bed.” With another glass of wine.

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Posted in Education News, Weekly Blog.