Weekly Thursday Education News Round-Up – 15/08/2019

‘Nightmare’ £7bn pension cost could hit teacher pay – Warning follows Court of Appeal ruling that transitional arrangements for public sector pension reforms were unlawful.

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme has been hit by a £7 billion cost that one analyst has warned could lead to teacher pay being frozen or pensions being made less generous. The TPS’s annual accounts for 2018-19, published yesterday, outline the expected impact of a Court of Appeal ruling about changes to public sector pensions schemes that were introduced in 2015. The changes made the schemes less generous, but included transitional provisions to protect older members.

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Augar proposals bad for university research, Lords warn
The House of Lords science and technology select committee said government needed to ensure there was no loss of funding if tuition fees are cut to £7,500.

University research could be damaged by the Augar review proposals, a committee of peers has warned. A report by the House of Lords science and technology select committee concluded “the Augar review did not take a holistic approach to the funding of universities and made no attempt to address the potential impact of its recommends reductions in student fees on the funding of research”. The report said the UK will not reach its target of investing 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027 unless government heeds the warning.

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Student Loans: The amount of interest owed on student debt is set to almost double in five years – Interest rates have shot up from 3.9 per cent to 6.3 per cent over the past four years, new figures show.

The amount of interest students owe on their loans is set to almost double in the next five years, according to government figures highlighted by Labour. Projections from the Department of Education show the interest on undergraduate loans will reach £8.6bn per year by 2024 – an increase of £4.2bn, the party said.

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Less than a third of people believe acts of worship like prayers are appropriate for school assemblies, prompting calls for a change in the law.

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has urged the government to replace the law demanding daily collective worship in state schools with guidance on how to provide “genuinely inclusive” assemblies for pupils of different backgrounds. In a survey of over 1,600 people in England, Scotland and Wales, half (50 per cent) said it was not appropriate for acts of worship of any religion to take place in state school assemblies, with just 28 per cent supporting the prayers.

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‘Teachers aren’t trained mental health professionals’ – Talk of ‘worry groups’ and ‘panic zones’ shows teachers aren’t equipped to handle mental health issues.

“Grace yelled at Lily and Molly today,” my daughter told me towards the end of last term. “She said she can’t help it because she’s got mental health problems. “And did you know Callum and Sophie go to a special group in assembly time because they’ve got mental health problems, too? Thomas says he’s going to pretend he’s got mental health problems so he can join, because he hates assembly.”

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Independent and free school headteachers trade places for the day – Highgate School and the London Academy of Excellence swapped heads earlier this month.

It was all change at Highgate School and London Academy of Excellence in Tottenham (LAET) earlier this month, as their respective heads – Adam Pettitt and Jan Balon – swapped jobs for a day. While Highgate already seconds teachers and administrators to LAET, and provides governance support, this was the first time such an exchange had taken place between the two heads. Jan Balon, head of LAET since it opened in September 2017, said: “My day at Highgate began with staff briefing, where I spoke to all Highgate staff about the strong links between Highgate and LAET, and the support given by Highgate to young people in the east of Haringey. After this, I got to spend some time in lessons, and then met with a group of current Year 12 pupils.”

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New A levels bad for mental health, say teachers – Exclusive: Research uncovers major teacher concerns about qualifications that have become ‘a punishment course’.

Most teachers feel that reformed A levels have led to a deterioration in pupils’ mental health, according to a new survey by the NEU teaching union. The research also suggests that large sections of the profession have other major reservations about the new more exam-based qualifications. Nearly four in 10 (37 per cent) of those surveyed said reformed A levels reflected students’ abilities less accurately than the legacy qualifications, and a third (34 per cent) said they had made pupil engagement worse.

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Government launches competition for early years edtech app – The winning apps will be offered licence-free to families in deprived areas of England to encourage early years literacy.

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a competition to design an early years edtech app. The scheme aims to find the best apps that can support pre-school children to develop language, literacy and communication skills. The winning designs will be offered licence-free to families in 12 deprived areas of England as part of a DfE pilot scheme.

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What teachers write in your child’s school report, and what they actually mean.

School reports can make for some confusing reading. Our undercover teacher, who works at one of Britain’s top schools, decodes the most common, seemingly benign, comments below. “This year in Geography we have been studying oxbow lakes, global megacities and how to develop a thick skin when other humanities students (and teachers) ask if they can borrow a colouring pencil.”

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Academy use of unqualified teachers ‘widens inequality’ – Academies employ more unqualified teachers than maintained schools in similar areas, new research shows.

Academies have been accused of widening class-based inequality after new research found that those serving poorer pupils employed more unqualified teachers. Previous research has found that academies, which have more freedom to employ unqualified teachers, are more likely to use those who do not hold qualified teacher status (QTS) than maintained schools.

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GDPR: One year in – There are two ways to look at GDPR: either as protecting people’s privacy or giving companies a legally-defined way to collect and process data.

If your birthday happens to fall on the 25th of May, you’re more than just a Gemini. You share your birthday with a very important event. No, it’s not some rare comet sighting or the birthday of some historical figure. It was the day back in 2018 that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially implemented, a major set of rules set by the European Commission intended to give people more control over their personal data, and it recently turned one.

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Record 80,000 pupils could go through clearing – A-level pupils are in a buyers’ market as increased competition between universities means thousands of courses still have places available.

Record numbers of A-level pupils could grab a university place through clearing this year, it was reported today. The clearing process is used to match students who have failed to get the grades they needed for their original university offer, have decided to decline their offers, or missed the application deadline, with courses that still have suitable places available.

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A private company associated with the now-closed Durand Academy is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with the Department for Education after refusing to hand over its assets to the government for free.

Durand Education Trust still owns the land occupied by a leisure centre and housing on the site of the Van Gogh Primary School in Lambeth, south London, formerly Durand Academy. Durand Academy Trust (DAT), the school’s original sponsor, is in the process of being wound up after its funding was withdrawn by the government last year, following disputes over finances and allegations of conflicts of interest over the running of the leisure centre facilities. The Durand Academy, its only school, was rebrokered to the Dunraven Education Trust last summer.

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T levels: what subjects can you take? – Students will be able to choose between 25 different T-level subjects from 2023 – but what are they going to be?

By September 2023, school leavers will be able to take T levels in 25 subjects. The new technical qualifications were first announced by Philip Hammond, then chancellor, in the 2017 Spring Budget as part of a wider series of reforms stemming from the government’s Post-16 Skills Plan. They are expected to replace around 13,000 technical qualifications at level 3, and the first three subjects will be introduced into around 50 FE providers and schools from September 2020.

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Questions from an entire Edexcel A-level maths paper were circulated on social media before the exam this year, rather than just a small extract as was originally thought, Pearson has admitted.

Edexcel’s parent company also confirmed that 78 pupils who sat the exam are having their results withheld while it investigates the leak, which has so far led to the arrests of two people. Two questions from the A-level maths 3 paper were posted and circulated on Twitter before the exam was sat on June 14, but Pearson has today said its investigations team later discovered that questions from the entire paper had also been circulated within “closed social media networks”.

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Goldsmiths tackles climate emergency with campus beef ban – The pledge is one of a number of bold iniatives announced by the provider as it pledges zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Goldsmiths has banned beef products in a bid to become carbon neutral by 2025. Speaking as the college, part of the University of London, declared a climate emergency, newly installed warden Prof Frances Corner said the global call for action “is impossible to ignore”. Goldsmiths joins a growing list of providers to declare a climate emergency which includes the University of Bristol, University of Plymouth, University of Glasgow, Keele University and Newcastle University.

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Teach First in £136k ‘fair education for all’ rebrand – Teacher trainer says it wants to raise awareness of the fact that it trains school leaders as well as teachers.

Teach First has launched a new brand and logo after discovering that few people were aware that it trains school leaders in addition to teachers. The changes cost £136,266, which was paid for from voluntary income, not government funds, the organisation said.

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Ucas Adjustment: how to change university course if your A-level grades were better than expected, without losing your first offer – Students who did better than their teacher expectations can now look at different options at different universities.

For aspiring university students the last few months have been some of the most tense and nerve-wracking of their lives. First they embraced revision, then sat intense A-level exams and then waited on tenterhooks until the results are announced on 15 August. Along the way, they plotted a route that would see them into university. For some it’s a course to achieve their ambitions, for others it’s studying at a university they dreamed about. For others, a combination of uncertainty or geography played into their decisions.

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‘Our future is debated by people who’ve never taught’ – Gavin Williamson should know establishing the right relationship at the start of a new term is vital.

Ever since Michael Gove packed away his framed pictures of those great libertarian educationists Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Michael X, it seems that the best an incumbent of that corner office in Great Smith Street can do is to coin clichéd bromides about teaching, recycle some money and repackage it as a pay rise, and appoint endless non-teachers to advisory boards who go on to tell teachers what they should be doing better.

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Sixty-two private schools have told the government this year they plan to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme ahead of a huge rise in employer contributions.

The amount schools will have to pay into the scheme will rise by 40 per cent from September. The Department for Education has said it will only fund this increase for state schools until the next spending review, leaving private schools warning the increase could force them to close or raise fees. Schools Week reported in April that at least 10 private schools were considering leaving the scheme, but it has emerged the actual number is six times greater.

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Posted in Education News, Weekly Blog.