ACT - The Association of Christian Teachers

for Christians working in education

The week
News items from the week’s daily and education press, covering the major education news stories of the week.

A'Level grades increase.

Top A-level grades have increased for the first time in six years, as teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland get their results.

A* and A grades were awarded to 26.3% of entries - up by 0.5 percentage points compared with last year.

In subjects changed to depend solely on final exams, there was a slight decrease, but the gender gap narrowed.

The number of university places allocated so far has fallen - with thousands of places still available.

The Ucas university admissions body says that 416,000 places have so far been confirmed - down 2% on last year.


'Buyer's market'

This is expected to mean a "buyer's market", with more options available to those looking for university places.

Read more.

It is impossible to compare this years GCSE results with last years.

The new system makes comparisons with previous years impossible – heads and governors need to communicate this, argue Geoff Barton and Emma Knights

In case anyone wasn’t aware, this summer’s examination results season is going to be “volatile”, especially for GCSEs.

How do we know? The chief regulator of Ofqual, Sally Collier, has said so. In a recent speech at an examination symposium, she warned that “individual schools could experience more variation than normal”.

We think it’s important that everyone knows this – everyone, except students. For them, results day this year should be what results days every year really ought to be – a celebration of what, after 11 or so years of schooling, they have individually achieved. This day should be a symbolic marker of the transition from one phase of education to the next stage of life. For most students and their teachers, any results day should be one of joy.

That’s why our respective organisations welcome Ms Collier’s candour and caution. It’s important that governors, parents and the local media understand that this year’s GCSE examination results can’t be compared neatly with those of previous years.

Read more.

SNP only discussed attainment gap three times.

Alex Salmond’s SNP Cabinet held scheduled discussions on the huge attainment gap between poor and wealthy school pupils as few as three times a year while literacy and numeracy standards declined, the Telegraph can disclose.

Scottish Cabinet minutes covering the period between the SNP taking power in May 2007 and Nicola Sturgeon becoming First Minister in November 2014 show the at senior ministers discussed “equity of access and attainment in education” an average of six times a year.

But this fell to just three times in 2014, the year of the independence referendum, with only one of the discussions taking place before polling day on September 18.

Read more.

Schools should be able to challenge Ofsted.

Schools should be able to challenge Ofsted inspectors if their conclusions are “defective”, a high court judge has said as he quashed a report that would have put a school into special measures.

Judges ruled that the inspectorate's complaints process was unfair, stating that Durand Academy, a south London primary school, was unable to effectively challenge the report on its performance.

The chairman of the school’s board of governors, Sir Greg Martin said the report – which marked Durand Academy “inadequate” - would have "destroyed" the school.

Read more.

Universities have thousands of empty places.

The Telegraph is reporting that Britain’s leading universities still have thousands of empty courses, figures show, as they prepare to drop their standards to fill places.

Over 4,000 courses still have vacancies at 15 out of the 24 elite Russell Group universities, ahead of A-level results day this Thursday.

Admissions tutors for sought-after courses such as Law and English Literature that typically require A* and A grades at A-level are poised to drastically lower their entry requirements in a bid to entice as many students as possible.

A dip in applications has left even top ranking institutions scrabbling to fill places, as this year a significant drop in the number of EU students combined with a decline in the youth population has led to applications to British universities falling by four per cent.

Durham, York and Glasgow universities were among the top universities left with empty places ahead of A-level results day. Leeds University still had spaces on 530 of its courses, while Queen Mary University advertised vacancies on 459 courses on Sunday.  

Some of the most competitive courses still had places, including Physics at Bristol University, which requires A*AA, or Law at Manchester University which requires AAA.

Christina Edgar, head of admissions at the University of Sheffield, said that clearing used to be seen as a shameful process for students who failed to achieve the grades they needed for their first choice university.

4-12 year old pupils head to University during holiday.

Pupils aged between 4 and 12 are taking part in a week-long Coventry University psychology research project over the school holidays.

They're helping form research for investigations into emotions, anxiety, literacy and maths as part of the project. The aim is to teach them about science and psychology using practical activities.

Some of the junior researchers are dressing up as animals to learn about the different intelligence levels for certain species.

More senior university academics say they can collect data for eight different research projects from the work.

Read more.

Children need to enjoy reading.

As a children’s author, there are many things that I want my books to give their readers. I’d like them to teach children how to be kind, how to think more deeply about the world and how to be resourceful and brave in the face of the huge odds that life will throw at them.

I’d hope that they will expand children’s vocabularies and broaden their minds. But there’s one basic thing I know: if kids aren’t enjoying reading my books, they will put them down, and then none of those high ideals will be possible.

I love reading so much that it’s hard for me to be dispassionate. But I know that plenty of studies have shown that children who read have wider vocabularies, are more confident constructing sentences, do better in lessons, have broader general knowledge and are more empathetic.

Read more.

Sign Language to be counted as a 'language' for undergraduates.

A university that requires all UK undergraduates to have a GCSE in another language, or study one alongside their degree, adds sign language to its list

A leading university has announced plans to recognise British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications in its entry requirements.

University College London (UCL) said that in future, BSL will be considered as meeting the institution's modern foreign language (MFL) requirement.

The university is the only UK institution that requires all of its UK undergraduates to hold at least a C grade at GCSE in another language or to sign up for courses as part of their degree.

It has now announced that it will recognise sign language as part of the requirement, saying it hopes the decision will increase awareness and access to the language. 

Read more.

School takes part in Fastnet race.

Fastnet, the world's largest offshore yacht race, is taking place this week over a 605 mile course - among the entrants is a team from an inner-city state school.

"Have you ever sailed before or is this your first time? Make sure you are all clipped in. You'll love it."

This was the advice from an experienced yachtsman who spotted a group of 17-year-olds on a boat at Hamble, near Southampton.

In fact, they were members of what the race organisers say is the only school team to qualify for the Rolex Fastnet race this year - and probably the only crew from a state school in its 92-year history. 

Read more.

Scottish results.

The pass rate for Higher exams has dipped slightly but the total number of passes remained above 150,000 for a third successive year.

Almost 137,000 candidates have received full results of their Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers.

The pass rate at National 4 was 92.8% although there was a significant drop in entries.

More than a third of students opted to receive the news by text or email with the remainder being notified by post.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said the results, which overall were broadly in line with 2016, were evidence of a stable system.

Read more.


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