‘Tutor proof’ entrance exams, a new anti-bullying app, and the UN on refugee education
This week’s education news update starts with a continuation of the grammar schools debate, which is still ongoing. Theresa May’s first flagship policy is already facing opposition from several members of her own cabinet, and a recent survey of teachers suggests that the majority of them are against the proposals to open new grammar schools. She clashed with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Wednesday’s PMQs, with Corbyn pointing out that even May’s predecessor, David Cameron, was against grammar schools and saw them as likely to wider already existing divisions in educational opportunity. On Thursday morning, the OECD announced that grammar schools are likely to benefit wealthier families without raising overall standards.
May is hoping to create a ‘tutor-proof’ 11 plus exam that will somehow eliminate discrepancies between parental support, extra coaching and social class background, testing only ‘natural’ ability. However, all available current evidence, as well as expert advice, suggests there is no such thing as ‘natural’ ability, that such a test will be impossible to create, and that any 11 plus exam intended to be taken by an enormous cross-section of students will always have an in-built bias towards those who are economically better off. Studies suggest that Black and Minority Ethnicity (BME) students, as well as those from less well-off postcodes and who qualify for free school meals, will always be at a disadvantage.
In a more positive, less contentious move, the Conservatives have granted £4.4 million from a government fund to support a number of anti-bullying initiatives. Among these is ‘tootoot’, an app that allows children to anonymously record or report bullying if they see/experience it, which serves to undermine the anonymity that cyber bullying permits to bullies.
A Commons Women and Equalities Committee report concluded that far too little is being done in schools to protect girls from sexual harassment, with teachers often turning a blind eye to the problem. In 2014, 59% of female students said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at school or college. In 2015, a freedom of information request revealed that over 5,500 alleged sex crimes in UK schools had been reported to police in the previous three years. The MPs’ report suggests that current sex education at most schools is out of touch, while the NUT general secretary believes the government needs to ‘provide real leadership’ on the issue.
A human rights group (the ONE campaign) have called on the upcoming UN General Assembly to do more to address a growing education crisis among refugee children, saying it requires far greater funds than are currently allocated. Unesco figures show that some 3.57 million refugee children missed out on school or any formal education last year. They were five times more likely to be out of school than other children, even though many of them came from skilled and supportive families in previously safe countries. This figure is even worse for girls, and are 2.5 times less likely to find a school place than their male counterparts. Malala Yousafzai has spoken out on the issue, calling on world leaders to do more to ensure education for refugee children.
Finally, girls once again outperformed boys at GCSE and A-level this year, with women now 35% more likely to apply to university, and more likely to accept a place to study.
For more information:
Teachers against new grammar schools (The Independent)
Government plans for a ‘tutor-proof’ 11 plus (The Guardian)
Human rights group calls on UN to do more for refugee education (The Independent)
Minerva Tutors supports the Baytree Centre in Brixton, a charity that helps refugee girls who arrive in the UK to find school placements, and integrate into British culture and society.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.