Education News Roundup 13/11/16

October 13, 2016 by Minerva Tutors,

Oxford’s infamous interview questions, the cost of raising children in the UK and the end of the History of Art A-level


An OECD report has revealed that, of the countries surveyed, the UK is the most expensive place to bring up a child. The Society At A Glance report details that 33.8% of the the average UK net family income is spent on childcare, while the average for the other 29 OECD countries surveyed is 15%. The UK is significantly ahead of New Zealand in second place, with 29%, and the report details how these costs are more likely to negatively impact the employment or training prospects of women than men.

Many teachers have expressed outrage at the fact that, as of next year, History of Art will no longer be offered as an option at A-level. The main reasons given by AQA (the only remaining exam board offering the subject) for this decision, related to the government’s recent overhaul of GCSEs and A-levels are as follows: ‘The existing specification is challenging to mark and award because of the specialist nature of the topics, the range of options, difficulties in recruiting sufficient experienced examiners, and limited entries. We had hoped that we could reduce or remove these areas of difficulty in developing the new specification, but this has not proved possible.’ AQA did not comment on the already-existing issues of getting sufficient experienced markers for every other subject, or paying markers enough to make the job worth their while.

After being ranked the no. 1 university in the world, Oxford has released details of some of its infamous interview questions, and how they can be addressed. Such questions are designed to be open-ended and sometimes cryptic, testing a pupil’s ability to think on their feet, lead a discussion and identify the relevant issues. They can be general and/or subject-specific, and are intended to give the candidate a chance to show off about their passion and knowledge of the subject, and suitability for life at Oxford, irrespective of their personal, cultural or educational background. For the last three years, 18% of Oxford applicants have been awarded a place.

Parents were left angry and frustrated after a disastrous 11+ resit exam. Pupils had to resit due to concerns that the original paper had been leaked, and seen by some students before they were meant to sit it. Then, a question that they had seen in a mock paper from the previous summer turned up in the resit exam, which exam board GL Assessment blamed on ‘human error.’ Children will not have to sit yet another paper, as the exam board believe they sufficient data to assess the students ‘accurately and fairly.’

The NSPCC has reported a huge surge in public reporting of child abuse, notably since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke. From 23,733 cases passed on to police 2012-13 to 33,333 in 2015-16, the NSPCC passed on 9,600 more cases to the police. This is reflected in significant increases in the number of neglect cases reported by concerned members of the public, a sharp rise in referrals relating to physical abuse, and 507 reports of slavery in the last two years. While the numbers involved are highly troubling, these increases at least suggest society is becoming more aware of the widespread nature of child abuse, and less willing to turn a blind eye.

Two faith schools in Blackburn have topped the government’s new Progress 8 measure of attainment. The system rewards value-added improvement, instead of looking exclusively at the percentage of GCSE grades at A* – C level. Tauheedul Islam Girls’ high school in Blackburn topped the inaugural Progress 8 tables, closely followed by Tauheedul Islam boys’ school. The girls’ school’s rate of improvement was a whole GCSE grade better than for pupils with equivalent backgrounds nationally. The A-level tables are dominated by independent schools, with Westminster and St. Paul’s girls’ school topping the table, while at GCSEs, some grammar schools lagged behind several comprehensive and faith schools.


And finally… a positive moment in one of the saddest education stories of the past few years. Boko Haram, the militant terrorist group that kidnapped 270 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014, has agreed to release 21 of them, after ongoing negotiations between the government and militants.


For more information…
UK most expensive OECD country to raise childrenIndy100

History of Art dropped from A-level syllabusIndependent

How to address Oxford interview questionsIndependent

Exam blunder in 11+ resit – BBC

NSPCC details surge in child abuse reports  – BBC

Faith school top new Progress 8 tables for GCSEGuardian

Release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls from Boko HaramBBC


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.

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