More good and outstanding schools, a pay row over exam invigilators and a new college for teenage code-breakers
Ofsted have announced an increase in the proportion of primary and secondary schools in England that are achieving good or outstanding ratings. 89% of schools were at least good in their inspection, up 5% from last year, although the gap is widening between the two sectors is widening, with 90% of primary schools achieving good or outstanding, compared to 78% of secondaries. At primary level, schools run by local councils also outperformed state-funded academies, with 91% now rated good or outstanding, compared to 86% for primary academies. Malcolm Trobe, interim General Secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders, praised the impressive work of teachers and school leaders across the country for the improvement, especially given the current education funding issues and crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. Trobe called on the government to address these issues so that schools may be able to have the resources to continually raise standards.
However, education leaders – including Malcolm Trobe – were disappointed by the education announcements in Philip Hammond’s autumn budget, which they believe fails to provide adequate funding for current issues, while providing a £50 million pot for the expansion of grammar schools. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, roundly condemned the announcement, his blunt assessment being “Capital investment in grammar schools is the wrong priority, and a distraction from the most important issues in education.”
Speaking of which, the 2016-17 initial teacher-training census reveals a 2% fall in entrants to teacher-training courses – 2,000 fewer trainees than the government estimates are required – with recruitment issues hitting secondary schools the worst. Recruitment for primary teachers is still on target, although the proportion of men training to be primary school teachers has fallen to only 20%, while secondary school recruitment targets fell short. Core subjects including maths, English, chemistry and physics failed to reach the required numbers of new teachers, although subjects such as history, geography and biology exceeded recruitment targets. Design and technology fared worst, only managing 41% of the estimated number of required teachers – a figure similar to last year. However, new trainees remain highly qualified, with three quarters of entrants to postgraduate programs receiving a first or 2:1 in their degree.
Chief Ofsted inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has urged schools to put a greater emphasis on career and work-related education, including ‘the promotion of economic and business understanding and financial capability’. He argues that students are leaving school with insufficient understanding and preparation for the world of work, and believes that the success of a post-Brexit UK relies on successfully harnessing the talent in our education system. This year, Ofsted found only four out 40 secondary schools they inspected had sufficient emphasis on work-related learning, offered enough career support or were aware of external guidance on offer for students, and had good connections with local businesses. Wilshaw emphasised that this was even more important for students with a disadvantaged background.
A school for teenage code-breakers is to be opened on the site of Bletchley Park. The sixth form College of National Security will teach code-breaking and cyber-security to gifted 16-19 year-olds, selecting students based on talent alone, with the costs covered through venture capital, corporate sponsorship and most likely government funding. Alastair MacWillson, the driving force behind the initiative, explains that the UK currently has a shortfall in those capable of dealing with cybercrime, which is growing at an unprecedented rate. He believes this sixth-form boarding school with help address growing cybersecurity threats in the future, on an individual and national basis.
Scottish exam invigilators are threatening to resign over low pay, after the national exam board refused to increase their pay in line with the national living wage, £8.45 an hour in Scotland. They claim that their actual working hours are understated by SQA, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, failing to take into account administration timing and students with extra time, while relying only on ‘informal checks’ at schools to log the hours. This means they often end up earning only about £7 an hour, and the SQA may be in breach of minimum wage legislation. Invigilators say that if they resign, it is likely to leave schools with insufficient invigilators for the coming exam season.
The World Education Forum released its annual Global Competitiveness Report, ranking countries on 12 criteria, including education. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK and the USA were both outside the top eleven, although the list includes Barbados, Qatar, Ireland and Estonia. Unsurprisingly, for the umpteenth year running, Finland was top of the rankings.
However, three UK universities were ranked among the top 20 in the world for employability, according to a new ranking by higher education think tank QS, while a total of seven made it into the top 50. Cambridge was highest, in fifth place, while Oxford was eighth and Imperial College twentieth. The other UK universities in the top 50 are UCL, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. Ben Sowter, head of research at QS, says the results show that universities with ‘a heavy focus on Stem’ (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are ‘generally the most successful in nurturing student employability’. However, this does not apply specifically to students studying Stem subjects, as the employability results were not broken down by subject choice.
A study led by the UCL Institution of Education, following 7,000 people over more than 40 years, reveals that the ‘old boys’’ network for privately educated men is still going strong, putting these individuals ahead for top jobs and higher salaries. Men who attended private schools were twice as likely to be in the top income bracket by the time they reached 42, compared to those who attended a comprehensive – even if they achieved similar results. They were also found to be earning more than women who attended private schools. Indeed, the study shows that women who attended private schools did not appear to have an equivalent advantage over those who did not. However, the key evidence suggests that a child’s social origins – the professions, income and education of their parents – had a far greater impact on their likelihood of reaching the highest income bracket than anything else…including their own school qualifications.
A school has cancelled a talk by Milo Yiannopolous, the controversial editor of US right-wing news website Breitbart, and former writer for The Tab. He was meant to give a talk at his old school, that was cancelled due to fears of demonstrations against Yiannopolous that could compromise student safety. Yiannopolous was banned from Twitter in July for directing abusive comments towards Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones
For more information:
The Top 11 school systems in the world – Independent
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.