Brexit and Further Education Funding

Britain has one of the best further education systems on the planet. Almost a quarter of the institutions on the European University Rankings Top 100 league table are in the UK. Britain’s further education system benefits a lot from international students too of course. There are currently around 73,000 undergraduate students from the EU and a further 140,000 from outside the EU studying in UK universities. This represents a significant chunk of further education funding; so how will Brexit affect this sector? Will it limit your child’s chances of attending university?

Students from the EU represent somewhere in the region of £3.7bn for the UK economy and its universities. If all of this income disappeared it would lead to a huge shortfall in many budgets. This deficit would have to be made up by the UK government – potentially leading to another hike in tuition fees.

Not only do universities get income from the number of EU students they accept, many also receive funding directly from Brussels. A growing number of research staff has said that their funding applications are now in doubt as a result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Around £1.2 billion a year is currently given in funding. More investment would have been forthcoming under the Horizon 2020 project but this requires other European institutions to cooperate. With Britain’s facing an uncertain future this looks unlikely.

The Pro-EU campaign group, Scientists for EU carried out a survey in the wake of the Brexit vote. It found that 51 out of 167 scientists had concerns about the future of research in Britain. 33 said they wanted to leave the country and 16 had already experienced disruption in their funding applications to the EU.  This suggests that there are already funding headaches and these will only get worse after formal separation begins.

Not only do UK universities receive funding from the EU, there are many intellectual partnerships between British institutions and European universities. These ties benefit from free movement of people because a lot of staff tend to travel around in order to impart knowledge. Many of the senior lecturers in British universities are from the EU. If they left, there would be a significant shortage of lecturers – potentially undermining student enrolments and putting some courses in jeopardy.

Brexit has created some serious concerns for the future of further education but it will not impact your child for several years even if they are currently at secondary school level. Once the formal separation has begun many of the repercussions and longer term impacts will become clearer. Watch this space.

Profiling the New Education Minister

The political fallout from Brexit has been catastrophic; a new Prime Minister has been appointed, new cabinet members named and the opposition is in disarray. In the wake of so many changes, you can be forgiven for not noticing the departure of Nicky Morgan from the Education Department and the appointment of Justine Greening in her place. It appears that the Education policy pursued for the last year will be scrapped but what can we expect in its place?

Justine Greening is a radically different politician to Nicky Morgan and this will shape her education policy. Morgan attended a public school before going on to study at Oxford, meanwhile Greening was a pupil at Oakwood Comprehensive before studying at The University of Southampton. She is the first Education Minister to have been educated in a mixed comprehensive school. This difference in early life is expected to have a big effect on policy making.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are one policy issue where there is set to be changes. When asked about the future of grammar schools, Justine responded by saying she was ‘open minded’ to new ones opening. Nick Timothy who is her new Chief of Staff has been a vocal supporter of grammar schools. Theresa May has also supported their return. It looks like creating more academically selective state schools will be on this government’s agenda.

National Funding Formula

It has been made clear that Greening intends to introduce a new fairer funding system for the nation’s schools by 2017. This policy was met with a lot of controversy when first introduced by Nicky Morgan. It is still unclear how this policy will be eventually rolled out but there have been suggestions that it will be done gradually.

Sex Education

Justine has been given the extra responsibilities of equalities. She is the first openly homosexual minister to hold this brief. With the recent calls for a better standard of sex education in schools, particularly on topics like homosexuality and transgender issues, it is expected she will champion a much more stringent approach.

Voting Record

Her voting record in the past has been rather chequered but does indicate some of the policy developments she supports. According to information taken from TheyWorkForYou, Justine supported both greater autonomy for schools and academisation. She also voted to end financial support for young people in training and was in favour of raising the tuition fee cap. This suggests that some of the academy policy will continue and that University tuition fees will not be reduced.

Do you think the new Minister is a step in the right direction for education policy? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

New Ofsted Boss May Scrap Outstanding Rating

Amanda Spielman who is expected to become the new head of Ofsted next January has said she intends to have discussions about getting rid of the ‘outstanding’ grade for schools. She made the comments when quizzed by the Education Select Committee which forms part of the procedure to get the top Ofsted job.

When asked what she thought about the grade she said, “I’m quite uncomfortable about some of the effects you see it having in the system, I have to say.” When MPs probed further and asked whether she would scrap the rating she said, “It’s something I would like to see fully discussed.”

While it is not definite that she will scrap the rating it is one of the changes she is looking at making. The ratings exist to tell schools how they are doing and ‘outstanding’ indicates a school is performing better than expected. Lower grades will tell the school how they need to improve. The grades in themselves are primarily there to signpost required changes.

An outstanding grade is essentially a pat on the back for the staff and governors but in the last few years this has slowly changed. Between September 2015 and March 2016 only 57% of schools were rated as good or outstanding. It is very difficult to be given this grade so scrapping it is essentially pointless. It could be argued that schools who achieve it deserve the prestigious title and status that comes with it.

Parents are more likely now to look at an Ofsted rating and factor it in to the decision about where to send their children. This has led to a surge in demand for outstanding schools. When demand for school places is so competitive, publicly grading one as better will only increase demand. However, they mostly tend to be in more affluent areas which reinforces the divide in UK educational standards. This would suggest scrapping the grade would make a significant difference and encourage all schools to improve.

There is also the argument that the outstanding grade puts unfair pressure on schools who do not achieve the required standard. Underperforming schools should focus on achieving a good rating but instead can become distracted by the outstanding grade which is a standard that most schools simply cannot achieve.

Do you think the outstanding rating should be scrapped? Share your thoughts in the comments and our social media pages.

Using Animals to Help Inner City Children Learn

A new charity is aiming to help disadvantaged children from cities learn more about the countryside and rural life. The Shephard’s Gate takes orphaned lambs into schools where most of the children will never have seen livestock in such an intimate setting. They already work in the Wiltshire and Bath regions but are hoping to expand into Bristol.

Liam Worsley one of the founders said, “We have gone and set up a little pen and 30 children come round and even the teachers don’t understand how we can get them to be so quiet and take an interest. They want to know everything about the sheep and we let them come in and have a stroke and a cuddle.”

Many of the children who live in cities have never had the opportunity to go out into the countryside and see live animals close up. This means most do not realise exactly where the food on their tables comes from. It is vital that they understand this because it shows them our place in nature too. Any scheme which will ensure the next generation understand how humans interact with the environment should be supported fully.

Animal therapy like this will not only help children learn about the countryside it can also be especially beneficial to those with special educational needs. In one school the Shephard’s Gate were warned that one pupil would likely misbehave because of his learning difficulties. In fact, the exact opposite occurred. Liam Worsley said, “He became very relaxed and wanted to give the sheep a cuddle.” There have been several studies which have shown children with special needs can benefit greatly from exposure to animals.

The charity was set up by Martyn Mackie and Liam Worsley in December 2015. The pair live together on a farm in Wiltshire and both have full time jobs. A lot of the schools they have visited are already requesting return visits but the guys need new equipment to make it possible. They also hope to expand the charity so that they can visit schools five days a week and focus on growing the charity. That is why they are currently looking for funding through gofundme.

Do you think that animal therapy will help children learn about the countryside? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

Kids Want to Ban Takeaways in Schools

A new report into child obesity has revealed that children believe the best way to combat the problem is to ban takeaway deliveries to schools. Half the children surveyed said that they have ordered takeaways on their smartphone and a quarter of them had paid for a takeaway through the school gates.

The report from the Royal Society for Public Health also revealed some other initiatives that children believe will help stop childhood obesity. These ideas included supermarkets giving wonky fruit to children for free, food labels should have the entire fat, sugar and salt content printed on them and that all parks should have free Wi-Fi like the fast food restaurants do. These ideas came from a workshop of 19 young people, after this their initiatives were put to a larger survey of schoolchildren and adults.

Responses to the survey revealed that almost half of the children blamed takeaways for obesity and 42% said there was a place selling unhealthy food less than two minutes’ walk from their school. Parents tended to agree with this too, 74% of them believed that there should be restrictions on fast food restaurants serving children during school hours. Over 80% of children also thought that food manufacturers were misleading customers by only putting serving size information about a product on the packaging.

Childhood obesity is a serious issue that can have devastating long term effects. Nearly one in five of 10-11 year olds are obese. Researchers have also warned that by 2025 the number of obese children will almost double. This is clearly a significant crisis in public health. The government has agreed to introduce its own sugar tax in an effort to reduce the amount of fizzy drinks consumed. However, this won’t reduce children’s access to takeaways and junk food.

The government is expected to introduce their childhood obesity strategy later this year but no details have been revealed yet. Some of the ideas put forward by these children could have a positive impact on childhood obesity. There are many other measures that could be taken like tougher food standards, limiting the ability to build fast food restaurants and banning unhealthy foods. While there is no guarantee that these measures will work every effort must be made to save the health of future generations.

How do you think the obesity crisis should be tackled? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

Does The Head of Ofsted Need Teaching Experience?

Ofsted exists to ensure standards in schools remain comparatively high throughout the country. They look into the work of teachers, head teachers, pupil behaviour and much more, up until now they have usually been a person with a lot of first-hand experience in the teaching profession. Sir Michael Wilshaw the current head worked in the teaching profession right up until 2011 when he became the head of Ofsted. As he prepares to stand down we now know who his successor will be.
Amanda Spielman will become head of Ofsted towards the end of the year, unlike Sir Wilshaw she has no teaching experience. She helped to found the largest academy chain in the country and has been chair of Ofqual. Some of the teaching unions have openly criticised her appointment due to her lack of experience. However, the government is more supportive of her, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said she had, “extensive experience at the frontline of the education system”. This begs the question does a head of Ofsted need to have teaching experience?
Ofsted is there to inspect and regulate services that cater for children, it has a special focus on schools and teaching standards. It therefore seems extremely important that the person in charge of this body has experience within the education sector and schools in particular. This is why traditionally the head of Ofsted has always been someone with experience in the teaching sector.
Spielman has got experience in the education sector but not in a role that involves dealing with children. Some have suggested this may be a good thing and may help Ofsted become a stronger body, which is more effective in raising standards in schools. As chair of Ofqual she has a lot of experience in this kind of role which could mean she is very effective.
One factor that goes against Spielman is her role as the founder of one of the largest academy chains. This suggests she will favour this type of institution over the local authority ran schools. However, when she takes the role she will have to be impartial and judge schools fairly. Therefore, there is a limited conflict of interest. One of the biggest criticisms of Sir Wilshaw is the attacks he has levied on government education policy. It is unlikely Spielman will act in this manner and may focus more on standards then policy. Only time will tell if she is an effective leader of Ofsted.
Do you think the head of Ofsted needs to have teaching experience? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

A Schools Legal Duty

All schools have a duty of care that they owe to their pupils. These are wide ranging duties that generally focus on the safety of the child. However, the document Keeping Children Safe in Education, which sets out the legal duties of a school in terms of safety has recently been updated. The amended document includes new guidelines on dealing with problematic issues like sexting, online safety and abuse, but they do not consider sexism to be something schools should protect children from.
Given the recent spate of news stories that highlight the growing issues of sexism in our schools then you would think this should be high on the governments list of priorities. It is such a problematic issue that The House of Commons, Women and Equalities committee have been undertaking an inquiry into the issue. Last year a study revealed that a huge proportion of girls’ experience unwanted sexual attention in schools. Only last week a number of leading experts from charities told the committee that teachers needed to learn about how to deal with sexism as part of their training. These concerns have been ignored.
The Government have said that the reason sexism is not included in the updated guide is because it is not a ‘safeguarding’ issue but is in fact a type of harassment that is a ‘behaviour management issue’. This shows a huge amount of contempt for the rights of girls in school. Sexting and abuse tend to stem from sexism, so surely tackling this is key to solving these other safety concerns.
Schools are generally safe places for both children and staff but sexism is one issue that needs to be tackled from the top down. Teachers need to be trained in how to deal with this kind of harassment in order to stamp it out in schools. The governments lack of commitment to this important issue is concerning for both parents and teachers but could also lead to more serious problems down the road. If an entire generation grows up believing that this kind of behaviour is acceptable then it will stick with them for life.
Do you think that schools should have a legal duty to prevent sexism? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

Do Pupils Need to Resit SATs at Secondary School?

New Government proposals mean that pupils who do not meet the required standard in their SATs will have to resit them in secondary school. The plan is still in the consultation process but already many experts are speaking out against it and nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition opposing it. After the many stories this year about stress and SATs, is it really a good idea to introduce this additional stress in the first few months of secondary school.

The Government claims that by introducing these resits, it ensures all pupils reach the required standard. The idea is that pupils will be able to improve in the first few months of secondary school and will perform much better in a December resit. However, there are several reasons this logic is deeply flawed.

Secondary school is a daunting place for year sevens, it is typically much larger than primary school, meaning there are many pupils and staff they simply don’t know. Should this stressful situation really be compounded by the introduction of examinations? Not only does this pressurise the pupils it also increases a teacher’s workload. At this time, they should be getting to know their new pupils not preparing them for exams.

With the exams in December and school starting in September teachers will only have three to four months in which to help pupils improve. Can enough progress really be made in this time? There is only so much time that can be dedicated to preparing for resits which will impact their ability to improve.

Year seven pupils have their own curriculum to follow and need to work through this. Spending time catching up and preparing for a resit will impact on their progress. Every week they will miss lessons because they need extra help preparing for a SATs resit. This could leave pupils in a state of being permanently behind because catching up would be almost impossible.

What happens if a child doesn’t reach the required standard again? Will they have to resit again, or will they be allowed to focus on their new school. There is no guidance on this situation as yet. This is one of the most pressing issues that has to be resolved in the consultation process.

SATs were originally introduced and are still explained as a measure on schools not pupils. However, by forcing pupils to do resits, it is clearly changing the entire purpose of these examinations. It is not testing the school because they have barely studied there.

Do you think pupils should be made to resit SATs? Share your thoughts on our social media pages.

Should Schools Shut Early for The Euro’s

A school in Southampton has been criticised after revealing it planned to close early for the second England game of Euro 2016. The game between England and Wales is scheduled to take place on the 16th of June at two in the afternoon. This has raised some questions as to whether schools should close early when national events like this take place. Some have argued that schools could instead show the match as part of a special assembly, others have branded the move as hypocritical and not in the interests of learning.

To announce the plans to close early the head teacher sent out a special letter which said, “As you are probably aware, on Thursday 16th June England are playing Wales in their second Group B match in the European Championship. After some thought we have decided that it would be sensible to finish at lunchtime on this day. This will give students plenty of time to get home and watch the match. I recognise that some children are not particularly interested in football and some parents will not want their children to leave school at 12.40. To help with this, the Academy will remain open in the afternoon for students who wish to stay.”

Obviously football is the national sport and both teams playing form part of the United Kingdom but is this enough of a reason? Football is also a great bonding experience that can bring some families closer together. A major tournament is an experience that will stay with a child for a long time. Getting to leave early to watch the game can be seen as fundamentally good for the child but there are reasons the school can be criticised.

Football is not universally loved, some families will have no interest in watching the game and will be at work. Sending children home for this reason will inconvenience parents because they will have to arrange time off work to supervise their children. Granted the school did offer to care for pupils whose parents opted out but wouldn’t these kids want a day off too? Isn’t it unfair to let some go and not others?

Providing a way of watching the game in school is arguably a better way to celebrate this tournament than letting them go home. It doesn’t inconvenience parents but children still get to enjoy the game and the whole school could be brought closer together because of this.

What do you think should children be let out of school early to watch the football or not? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.

What Happens When an Exam is Disrupted?

Up and down the country teenagers are spending hours revising as exams bear down. But, what happens if the test is interrupted by something beyond the school’s control? This is exactly the situation many pupils have found themselves in after a high number of bomb threats were called into schools throughout the UK. Obviously a bomb threat is very serious but what about a fire alarm, illness or even construction noise? All of these can disrupt an exam so what happens in these circumstances?

Guidance

There is a clear set of procedures explaining how examinations should be conducted. This has been created by the Joint Council for Qualifications which represents the seven largest exam boards in the UK. As well as explaining the conditions needed for an examination, it also provides guidance on what to do if an exam is interrupted.

In The Exam Room

Invigilators are responsible for conducting an exam and have to react to any interruptions to the exam. If there is a fire alarm or bomb scare they have to tell candidates to stop writing and take a register of attendance before evacuating the room. All tests must be left in the examination room and pupils must exit in silence. When at a fire assembly point invigilators must continue to monitor the candidates and ensure they do not talk about the test. The amount of time taken for the disruption is noted and pupils are given that time back when the exam resumes to ensure they receive the full amount intended.
If a child is ill and disturbing the exam through vomiting or other symptoms, then the invigilators have a few options. They could isolate the candidate and allow them to continue away from others. Alternatively, they may simply allow the candidate to continue and notify the exam board.

Results

Any disruption to an examination has to be reported back to the board responsible. Schools and invigilators document the interruptions but exam boards have the final decision as to whether grade boundaries will be amended for the candidates.
Special consideration can be granted as a post-exam adjustment to candidate grades. This is generally used for pupils who are ill, injured or have another distraction (such as the passing of a relative) at the time of the exam. Pupils who are evacuated from the room or are distracted by outside noises can apply for special consideration but will have to prove how the distraction affected their ability to perform in the exam.

What to Do?

As a parent you will be concerned for your children’s grades but you have to get them to re-focus and carry on with the rest of their examinations. If there are any serious concerns like continual noise complaints, you need to raise this with senior staff at their school.

 
Was your child affected by a disruption in their exam? How was the issue resolved? Share your experiences on our social media pages.