Weekly Thursday Education News Round-Up – 07/11/2019

Free school transport ‘pushed to breaking point’ – Councils have warned that the current funding system for free school transport may not be financially sustainable.

Demand and costs are pushing free school transport in England “to breaking point”, a new report has revealed. Local authorities are now spending more than £1 billion per year year on school transport, according to the analysis.

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GCSEs’ varying degrees of difficulty – 6 key questions – Ofqual is to adjust grading for GCSE French and German after finding they have been harder for more than a decade.

Ofqual goes to enormous lengths to ensure that GCSE standards are consistent from year to year using its carefully calibrated comparable outcomes grading system. So you might expect that the exams regulator would achieve the same consistency when it came to grading standards between different GCSE subjects. But an announcement today suggests not.

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‘Technology will create superteachers, not replace them’ – Priya Lakhani OBE, founder CEO of CENTURY Tech, says schools can use AI to automate and improve less human-dependent tasks, so teachers can get back to what’s important – teaching.

On any given day, a cursory glance at the news headlines will reveal yet more industries being ‘taken over’ by robots. As I write this, the top Google News results feature robots saving the coral reef, robots solving Amazon’s labour conditions woes and even Iran beginning to produce a robotic surgeon. There can be no escaping from the fact that many of these and similar developments will lead to a reduction in the role played by humans. In sectors from transport to healthcare to manufacturing, robots are increasingly replacing humans – and this year the ONS predicted that 1.5 million people in England alone are at ‘high risk’ of losing their jobs to automation.

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Report: Schools’ cyber security guidance urgently needed – LGfL’s 2019 Cyber Security Schools Audit found that barely one-in-three schools train non-IT staff in cyber security.

Despite the education sector being widely recognised as a top target for computer hackers, only 35% of schools train non-IT staff in cyber security. That’s one of the key findings in a new report from edtech charity, the London Grid for Learning (LGfL). More than four-in-five (83%) of schools have reportedly experienced at least one cyber-security incident. And despite 99% of schools claiming to have firewalls in place, 8% said they had been “significantly disrupted” by a cyber-attack or incident.

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School leaders are “best-placed” to make decisions about their own security policies, the government has said, dismissing concerns its new safety guidance is not prescriptive enough.

The Department for Education has today published its final security guidance – almost a year after it launched a consultation on draft advice, warning that “no school can afford to ignore the potential threat and impact of security issues”. The updated guidance urges schools to put security policies in place, and form partnerships with police and local authorities to “share security-related information”.

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How touchscreen devices boost early years learning – The tactile nature of touchscreens make them a great addition to traditional early years education.

Young children love to touch things, to understand how they feel, how they work and generally just to satisfy their curiosity. This is perhaps one reason why tablets and other touchscreen devices are so popular with children. They are often the first piece of technology that a child interacts with at home, and at school so many primary teachers are turning this to their advantage by using touchscreen devices to boost learning outcomes and ensure engagement in lessons.

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A new set of “benchmarks” for schools to rate their character education against has been published by the Department for Education.

New guidance urges schools to consider “what kind of school are we?” and assess things like their curriculum and the value they place on volunteering. Plans for the benchmarks, similar to those on careers education developed by the Gatsby foundation, were set out in February by former education secretary Damian Hinds. Unlike the Gatsby benchmarks though, the character benchmarks are not statutory, and the DfE has been at pains to point out it does not require schools to submit data about how well they meet the benchmarks.

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I can see clearly now – the benefits of outdoor education – Liz Briggs, of Bohunt Education Trust, on the “incredible positive effects” of building-free learning, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

Enjoy, respect, achieve. These core values are as embedded in the DNA of Bohunt Education Trust’s (BET) schools as words in a stick of rock and influence every aspect of our students’ education. As BET’s manager of the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE), it is a privilege to work for a multi-academy trust that not only sets such store in this ethos, but is staunch about outdoor education playing a central role in our schools’ curriculum – and is accessible to all.

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Two-thirds of universities and colleges need improvement, says regulator – The director of competition and registration at the OfS said improvements are needed at almost every university.

Two-thirds of registered universities and colleges need improvement and will be subject to additional monitoring, the Office for Students has said. In a statement, the higher education regulator said the move had been prompted “in many cases because of concerns over teaching quality or levels of access and participation for disadvantaged and other underrepresented groups”.

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‘Poor leadership and governance’ behind UTC failures – But Baker Dearing Educational Trust CEO Simon Connell insists standards at university technical colleges are improving.

A highly critical report on university technical colleges (UTCs) by the National Audit Office (NAO) did not give a “fair assessment” of the programme, according to Simon Connell. The chief executive of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (pictured), the organisation behind the UTC movement, described the report as painting a ”glass half empty” picture.

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Higher education paying way over the odds for tech – A new survey – Probrand’s IT Product Margins Report 2019 – says that the sector is spending almost £100,000 more than necessary.

Higher education organisations are paying significantly over the odds for technology products, according to a new survey. IT Product Margins Report 2019, conducted by technology services provider, Probrand, finds that the sector is giving £98,000 more than necessary to IT resellers. It is a question of inflated margins, says Probrand. While the Society of IT Managers recommends that organisations pay no more than a 3% margin to suppliers, the poll found that the average spent by HE institutions came to 10.28%

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Struggling University Technical Colleges now account for almost 10 per cent of revenue deficits reported by all academy trusts after deficits more than doubled in just four years.

A report from the National Audit Office, the government’s spending watchdog, today lays bare the extent of financial failure among UTCs. The document also reveals how government efforts to improve the institutions are failing, and that tens of millions of pounds has been spent on propping them up.

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Are you passing on lies to your students? – We all have our favourite stories to share about our subjects, but we should take a closer look at the tales we fall back on so often.

“There’s sometimes a difference between truth and fact, Ruth.” Tom the archaeologist was slightly exasperated by a comment I had just made during his tour of Winchester. We were at Hyde Abbey, the burial place of King Alfred, and I, ever the teacher, had confidently told the group who had not asked: “Yes, he’s the one who burned the cakes.”

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Hundreds of schools are rescheduling nativity plays and Christmas concerts while parents scramble to make childcare arrangements, following the announcement of next month’s general election.

The election on Thursday, December 12, called to break the parliamentary stalemate over Brexit, will take place in the penultimate week of term for most schools. School leaders and MPs have warned of disruption as schools are forced to become polling stations. For some it will be the third time this year they have had to close – in May ballot boxes moved in for local and then EU parliamentary elections.

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Make master’s compulsory for teachers, say universities – University trainers urge policymakers to make teaching an ‘all master’s profession’ to boost recruitment, retention and performance.

All teachers should be required to study for a relevant master’s degree, marking the “biggest step change in quality” for the profession in 50 years, according to university based teacher trainers. The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) is calling for all teachers to either have, or be working towards, a government-funded master’s degree in education or a subject relevant to their classroom work within five years.

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£18m funding boost for Opportunity Area programme – The DfE programme aimed at improving social mobility in deprived areas will be extended for 12 months.

The Opportunity Area programme will receive an extra £18 million investment from the Department for Education, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced. The programme, aimed at improving social mobility in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, will now run for an additional year.

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The government will spend £79 million funding music education hubs for another year, despite concerns that access to the hubs are a postcode lottery for young people.

The Department for Education has agreed to funding music hubs for 2020-21. The hubs were set up in 2012 with a £300 million funding package, but the cash was due to run out on March 31. Arts Council England said the £79 million would be an increase of £265,000 on the current funding for this year.

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Resilience and R.E.S.T: measuring pupils’ resilience – Malcolm Mckinlay, headmaster of Parkgate House School and co-author of Jigsaw R.E.S.T. explains how the school has measured its pupils’ resilience.

At Parkgate House School we have always been aware of the strong link between pupils being resilient and performing to the maximum of their ability. This awareness strengthened my desire to proactively build this in our pupils. The most natural way to achieve this, I felt, was to come up with a simple way of measuring resilience, in all its different facets, that teachers could use to monitor the children in their class. I started researching resilience and engagement scales and felt that by combining parts of a few of them, I could come up with a manageable way for teachers to assess pupils.

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A fresh approach to facilities hire-Co-founder and director of School Lettings Solutions, Scott Warrington, is working with independent schools to unlock potential from unused facilities.

Working with independent schools such as St George’s School in Ascot, and The Godolphin and Latymer School in London, we see the potential that can be unlocked from unused facilities out-of-hours, making them available to more people to encourage community engagement and leisure activity. Overcoming staffing issues and taking away the burden of opening the doors to allow local clubs and groups to hire their facilities for sports, leisure and holiday clubs, has multifaceted benefits.

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Colleges and universities to launch climate commission – Universities and colleges have a centrally important role to play in tackling climate change, says the AoC.

Colleges and universities will next week launch a climate commission to find ways to combat the climate emergency. The Association of Colleges (AoC), EAUC, GuildHE and Universities UK are calling on principals and vice-chancellors to prepare their institutions for and take action against the climate crisis. Over the next 12 months, the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Leaders, which will be officially launched on 13 November at Ravensbourne University London, will develop a strategic framework and set ambitious targets, including proposals for ensuring progress.

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Posted in Education News, Weekly Blog.