Weekly Thursday Education News Round-Up – 22/08/2019

How to tackle pupil ‘apathy’ after unconditional offers – Headteacher calls for universities to ‘rethink’ unconditional offers because ‘if you want to attain something you have to work for it’.

For some students, the pressure of A-level exams receded earlier this year when they received unconditional offers from their prospective universities. However, they were wrong if they thought the pressure was off. Staff at Luton’s Chalk Hills Academy – which Tes visited on A-level results morning – pointed out that universities can still change their minds about offering a place.

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What it’s like to be a… university porter – Paul Tomlinson talks UB through a day of mail, keys and walkie-talkies at Lancaster University.

After studying for a degree in photography, Paul Tomlinson worked for over 30 years in various roles in the professional print and photographic trade, including time spent working in London and Los Angeles. In 2013 he took up a temporary post in the print and photography department at Lancaster University, before a moving on to being a buildings and academics support porter. He has been portering for four years.

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Universities face crack down on hard-sell tactics aimed at recruiting students – Office for Students will publish a review later this year into university admissions.

The Office for Students has said it will crack down on universities using hard-sell tactics and abusing the role of conditional offers to recruit students. With the number of students accepted on to a UK degree course this year dropping by 1 per cent, many universities are scrambling to fill places. Among the Russell Group universities alone, 18 institutions (75 per cent) still had availability on at least one course through clearing, according to PA.

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A-level results 2019: STEM gender gap increasing – Statistics from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) published this morning show the gender gap in STEM subjects has increased from 2018.

This year’s A-level results show a clear gender gap in the uptake of STEM subjects. Despite female students outperforming their male counterparts for the top grades this year, after two years of boys doing better, the gender gap for certain STEM subjects has increased. Computing, ICT, and maths all saw an increased gender gap since 2018, and although the gap in physics did decrease, it remained significant.

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A-level results day 2019: Top grades fall to their lowest level in more than a decade.

But on A* grades alone, boys performed better, with 8.2 per cent of entries getting the highest result, compared with 7.5 per cent of girls’ entries. Entries for English Language plummeted by 21.8 per cent to 14,114, amid calls for ministers to launch an inquiry into the decline. Ahead of results day, grade boundaries for two of England’s biggest exam boards, Edexcel and OCR, were leaked online.

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The Department for Education has refused to increase the “pathetic” level of compensation offered to would-be teachers who were incorrectly told they failed the teacher training skills tests.

Officials have told the disgruntled victims if they are unhappy with the £100 compensation offer then they should seek legal advice. An error in the mark scheme for the QTS literacy and numeracy tests, thought to have been in place for at least 10 years, was only discovered last year after nearly 700 candidates were wrongly told they had failed the tests.

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The government has ditched a statement on its website stating that the country’s top universities believe the EBacc subjects “open more doors to more degrees”.

It follows the Russell Group of elite universities dropping its list of preferred A-level subjects, known as “facilitating subjects”. The list of subjects included all five of the areas covered by the EBacc, which was modelled in part on the facilitating subjects list. The change will be uncomfortable for schools minister Nick Gibb, who has regularly pointed to the facilitating subjects list to counter EBacc criticism. The move also comes on the same day a letter to the new education secretary Gavin Williamson claimed the EBacc had been a “costly and damaging experiment” which had “failed and is virtually indefensible”.

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Competency-based learning vs. traditional models – Can a competencies-based approach to learning fulfil the dual purpose of better preparing students for the world of work while inspiring students to enjoy learning? Jo Ruddock finds out.

For some years, the state of education in the UK and how it prepares students for the world of work has been a hot topic among politicians, employers and the general public. Skills shortages in sectors such as engineering and technology, combined with a rapidly changing job market, have raised the question of whether current teaching methods are the best way to educate and inspire students while equipping them with the knowledge they need to thrive in the modern world.

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Cambridge University admits 67 students from poor backgrounds who got better than expected A-levels – Cambridge allowed students who ‘missed out’ at the interview stage to apply through ‘adjustment’ for the first time this year.

Cambridge University has admitted 67 “second chance” students from disadvantaged backgrounds in its latest measure aimed at boosting diversity. The ancient institution allowed post A-level applications for the first time in its history this year through the “adjustment” system. Students who get better grades than their predicted results can use adjustment to apply for places at better universities. Cambridge decided to use the system to offer those who “narrowly missed out” at their interview stage to give pupils a chance who have spent time in local authority care, or from deprived households or area.

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STEM in secondary education – answering the why and the how – Integrating coding hardware and AI technology into schools offers opportunity for a wealth of real-world learning.

In today’s increasingly tech-centric world, the role of STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and maths – is becoming a central tenet of any educational offering. However, given the rapid pace at which technology is adapting and expanding, there is now an expectation for students to leave school with a deep understanding of not only coding, but its supporting functions and practical applications.

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Pearson has upped the grade boundaries for BTEC Tech Awards just days before pupils are due to collect their results, meaning youngsters face being handed lower grades than they were expecting.

More than 4,000 people have now signed a petition calling for Pearson to reverse the decision to raise the grade boundaries amid fury about the notice being issued on Friday afternoon. Pupils will get their results on Wednesday.

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From GCSEs to A levels: Managing sixth-form transition – Free lessons, no uniform and independent learning – post-16 education is a different world for pupils.

A few years back, a colleague of mine found that a group of students were having trouble making the transition to life in the sixth form. They were messing about in class and handing in assignments late, and, after another unproductive lesson, he ended up shouting at them all in frustration: “You’re not Year 12 students, you’re just Year 11s wearing your own clothes!”

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Why are parent-teacher relationships important? – Research from Ofsted finds poor relationships with parents can add significantly to low morale and poor wellbeing in teaching. Eve Debbage, project officer at Teacher Tapp, outlines how matters can be improved.

On 22 July, Ofsted published research highlighting the issues of low morale and wellbeing in teachers. Ofsted monitors all schools on behalf of the Department for Education, including overseeing the work of the Independent Schools Inspectorate. ‘Teachers feel unsupported on classroom behaviour’ detailed how teachers in state and independent schools – as well as further education institutions – feel a distinct lack of support from school leaders and parents when tackling poor classroom behaviour.

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Ofqual has warned there are “significant lessons to be learned” from Pearson’s last-minute decision to raise its grade boundaries for the BTEC Tech Awards, which it admitted had led to “understandable uncertainty and frustration”.

Days before BTEC results day, Pearson announced it would be raising the grade boundaries for the qualification amid concerns that the course had been too generously graded and outcomes were “significantly higher” than expected. The decision has caused fury in schools, which were informed of the change on Friday – less than a week before results are released on Wednesday. Many teachers have voiced concerns that the sudden change will negatively impact pupils’ grades at a point when it is too late for them to re-sit.

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How chatbots are changing HE – James Higgins looks at how universities are revolutionising chatbots and creating new, personalised tools for student engagement.

Chatbots were – and perhaps still are – a frustration for anyone desperately trying to contact an insurance company or rearrange a delivery slot. The chatbots’ inability to ‘chat’ has led to an unpopular opinion of them. While a bot can only understand what a user says, a capable chatbot (or ‘chatterbot’ as they are also known) can engage and help its user communicate commands more effectively.

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Better data will improve student mental health, says OfS – As 10 mental health pilot projects backed by the Office for Student prepare to get under way, Yvonne Hawkins says the sector ‘can’t afford to wait two years’ for solutions.

Data is the key to better mental health among students, according to the Office for Students (OfS). Yvonne Hawkins, the OfS director of teaching excellence and student experience, was speaking as the regulator’s 10 partnership projects tasked with improving student mental health get under way. She told University Business: “We can’t afford to wait two years to know what’s coming out of these projects. We’ve already gathered the 60 partners together with an externally appointed evaluator. What we need is really robust evaluation and collaboration built in from the outset.” Hawkins hopes data on student mental health solutions will be fed back to the OfS by early next year.

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Spending review: Colleges need £1bn boost, says AoC – Association of Colleges urges chancellor to give FE injection of more than £1bn in revenue plus £240m in capital funding.

As the summer holidays come to an end, the government’s autumn spending review edges closer. The new chancellor has already announced that, in light of Brexit, it will be a one-year, rather than a three-year, plan. But what could this review mean for further education? According to the Association of Colleges (AoC), it’s a chance for Sajid Javid – and prime minister Boris Johnson – to honour his promises to address the long-term lack of investment in colleges.

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10 school uniform statistics – How many teachers believe that school uniform positively affects pupils’ behaviour? Find out in our top 10 school uniform statistics.

School uniform is a big part of independent school life, with it often reflecting the history of a school that has spanned centuries. Here are 10 statistics that will help explain current trends in the market and what different people think about school uniform.

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Pros and cons of school uniforms – It might be boosting good behaviour in pupils, but is it too expensive? IE looks at the advantages and disadvantages of school uniforms.

Whether you are for or against school uniforms the reality is, most of the schools in the UK have a uniform policy. For independent schools, you could say uniform is an even bigger part of school life with most, if not all, having a school-specific uniform that reflects the institution’s history and ethos.

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Graduates overpaying as much as £600 per person after student loans paid off – Between 2009-10 and 2017-18, a total of £307,821,092 was overpaid.

More than £28 million in unclaimed student loan over-payments is sitting in government coffers, it has been revealed. Over a nine-year period, more than half a million former students in England overpaid on their loans, paying on average nearly £600 more than they owed, according to Student Loans Company (SLC) data. The figures, obtained by Research Professional News, show that while much of the £308 million overpaid has been paid back to graduates, almost a tenth (£28.5 million) is yet to be returned.

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Posted in Education News, Weekly Blog.