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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.

Times table test to be trialled for 8 and nine year olds.

Thousands of eight and nine-year-olds in England's primary schools will take a new times tables check this spring.

Some 7,250 pupils in 290 primaries, are expected to take part in the trials of the new multiplication check.

The five-minute test, taken by children in Year 4, will then be fully rolled out over the next two years.

Ministers say the test will identify those struggling, but teaching unions have raised concerns about its benefits.

Supporters have argued that it will help to ensure all children know their tables up to 12 off by heart, but opponents say primary school children are already heavily tested.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said it was "hugely disappointing" that the Department for Education was still determined to bring in a multiplication tables test.

Read more.

Increased nuursery provision in Scotland questioned.

The public spending watchdog has questioned plans to fund increased nursery provision in Scotland.

Audit Scotland said in a report there was a "significant risk" councils would not be able to resource a planned expansion.

The Scottish government has promised to almost double the annual hours in paid-for nursery places to 1,140.

In response to the report, the government repeated its pledge to fully fund the policy.

Ministers plan to meet the new target for nursery provision by August 2020.

Read more.

Lecturers want 'radical' overhaul of fees.

University staff are calling for a "radical" overhaul of tuition fees and higher education funding in England in a review of student finance.

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers' union, says the review must be more than "tinkering at the edges".

The review, to be formally announced in the next few days, follows a promise by the prime minister to examine the cost of university.

Theresa May said the review would show "we have listened and we have learned".

Ms Hunt, whose members are threatening strike action next week in a pensions dispute, says there needs to be a "fundamental look at university funding".

"Too often recent reviews have simply resulted in finding new ways to saddle students with record levels of debt," said Ms Hunt.

Read more.

Academy chains 'argue' over 'unneeded' free school.

Two of the country’s leading academy trusts have clashed over plans for an “unneeded” free school in north London.

Plans for Ark to build the Ark Pioneer Academy – a secondary school with a sixth form – on the site of the former Underhill Stadium in Barnet are expected to be rubber-stamped soon despite objections from United Learning, which took over the nearby Totteridge Academy in November 2016.

The new school will open in September 2019, and will have 900 secondary and 300 sixth-form places when it reaches full capacity. The Totteridge Academy, a secondary school with 399 unfilled spaces, is located just 0.7 miles away.

Two more secondary free schools with sixth forms – Saracens High School and The Compton School – will also open in the borough this year and next year respectively.

Ark insists the Pioneer Academy is needed to address “the need for additional places in Barnet” that have been identified by Barnet Council and the Department for Education, but in its own analysis, United Learning said there was already a surplus of places in the borough and no need for another secondary school.

Jon Coles, United Learning’s chief executive and a former DfE civil servant, blasted local and national officials over their handling of the case.

Read more.

Michael Rosen on English grammar assignments.

Children’s author Michael Rosen has shared a Facebook post of a child’s English grammar assignment, which required kids to “uplevel sentences”.


Rosen did not state the age group the schoolwork was aimed at, the consensus among parents in the comments was that this was the sort of homework their kids in KS2 (Years 3-6 in primary school) would get. 


Sharing the post on 8 February, Rosen wrote: “I know you guys think I exaggerate. But this is for real. ‘Improving sentences’ by making them worse. Pray thanks to Gove and Gibb.”

Read more.

Same sex couples in textbooks.

School textbooks will be updated to include “same sex” couples in their questions, one of the country's biggest education companies has announced. 

Pearson, which owns the exam board EdExcel and publishes thousands of school textbooks, said it will update all of its products and resources to ensure they are “LGBT inclusive”.  

A new handbook for secondary schools, produced by the charity Stonewall and sponsored by Pearson, advises teachers on how they can make the curriculum more welcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils.

Rod Bristow, Pearson’s president for core markets, said they will use the handbook to “help update our own products and resources to ensure they are LGBT inclusive”.

Read more.

Should RSE be available online?

Children must have access to online sex education because they are too embarrassed to discuss relationships in the classroom, charities and experts have said.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, more than a dozen charities warn that teenagers must be able to access sex and relationships advice from the privacy of their homes.

Warning that the prevalence of online pornography is warping teenagers’ views on sex and relationships, the charities have urged the Government to establish a national database to ensure children are getting advice from safe and trusted sources.

It comes as the Government faces growing calls to roll out compulsory sex education in schools across the country, amid concern that the current guidance, which was last reviewed in 2000, is outdated.

Read more.

How are Multi- Academy Trusts doing?

This release presents performance measures for multi-academy trusts (MATs) with at least three schools
with results in the academic year 2016-17 that had been with the MAT for at least three years. The MAT
performance measures mirror those in the school performance tables.
The primary progress measures and Progress 8 are relative measures that compare the performance of
pupils in each school, MAT or sponsor to other pupils with similar prior attainment. The national average
(for state-funded mainstream schools) is close to zero, so a score close to zero means pupils at the school
or MAT do about as well as other pupils nationally with similar starting points. For MATs or sponsors with
secondary schools, EBacc entry and attainment are also reported. All MAT performance measures are
reported for disadvantaged pupils.
Explanations for MAT performance can be complex, including their mix of school types as some
incorporate free schools, studio schools and university technical colleges. More details can be found in the
quality and methodology document accompanying this release.

Read the detail.

Public Sector Apprenticeship Target.

This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education which accompanies the
regulations bringing into effect the Public Sector Apprenticeship Target. Public bodies
within scope of those regulations should have regard to this guidance when considering
how they have regard to the target and how they report their progress towards meeting
the target.
What legislation does this guidance refer to?
This guidance refers to ‘The Public Sector Apprenticeship Targets Regulations 2017’
which were made under powers conferred by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and
Learning Act 2009.
This guidance has been updated to reflect amendments made to these Regulations by
the Apprenticeships (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2017, which come into force on 31 March 2018.

Read the document.

Annual Report of Chief Adjudicator on School Admissions Code.

The annual report of the Chief Adjudicator Ms Shan Scott, to the Secretary of State for Education, covering the period 1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017 is published today (8 February 2018). The report records the progress made by admission authorities in England in complying fully with the School Admissions Code and achieving fair access to schools for all children.

In her report, Ms Scott states that the main admissions rounds for entry to schools works well and serves well the interests of looked-after and previously looked-after children, those with disabilities and special needs or who are vulnerable for other reasons. She is less confident that the needs of children who need a place outside the normal admissions round are so well met and is concerned that some children, particularly the more vulnerable, spend more time out of school than they should.

Read more.


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