Apprenticeships, parents’ exam stress and the education world’s response to the spring Budget
The Chancellor promised a one-off payment of £320 million for 140 new free schools by 2020 – which could include grammar schools – on top of the 500 already pledged to be built. However, Labour’s Angela Rayner pointed out schools are still facing £3 billion in spending cuts in the coming years. Many head teachers have criticised the budget announcement for failing to adequately address the problems faced by existing schools, including the possibility of a four day week in some schools, and cuts in terms of staff and subjects offered. The chancellor is promising £216m to renovate schools – while the National Audit Office says that bringing schools up to standard would cost £6.7bn. Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, described the government’s budget pledges as “a drop in the ocean” compared to the cuts schools are facing.
The headmaster of a girl’s grammar school in North London is asking parents for a ‘donation’ of £250 to make up for a £100,000 deficit caused by years of underfunding. Julian Ward, headteacher at St. Michael’s Catholic grammar school, sent a letter to parents asking for donations, and he is not the first headteacher to do so. Ward was quick to point out that parents have generally been generous and supportive to the school, tending to blame the government for the shortfall, rather than St. Michael’s itself.
The National Union of Teachers also criticised the budget announcement, saying it has failed to help schools that are already ‘on their knees’ in favour of promising money for new schools. Philip Hammond’s promise of £360 million for new free schools, as well as £500 million investment in vocational education and new ‘T-levels’ will not help schools that are set to lose hundreds of pounds per pupil under the government’s new national funding formula. NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney called it “a complete dereliction of duty to our children and young people.” Courtney continued: “School budgets have been cut to the bone, class sizes have increased, subjects have been dropped from the curriculum, materials and resources are scarce, yet nothing has been done to address this very serious problem.” The NUT’s research shows that 98% of schools face cuts in real terms under the new funding formula.
National Children’s Bureau chief executive Anna Feuchtang said the government had its priorities wrong. By focusing on the academically ‘gifted’ – those at free schools and grammar schools – over all children, and failing to account for those who are more likely to start at an academic and socioeconomic disadvantage.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The Government has failed to consider the needs of the majority of children and young people in not increasing the funding for all state schools… Putting more money into free schools and grammar schools will not benefit most children and is a costly way of providing extra school places.”
In news that may come as a shock to few parents, a recent survey of 830 British parents of 11-18 year olds conducted by 5 live revealed that 24% say their mental health has suffered as a result of stress related to their children’s exams. Other findings included:
- 42% say not knowing how to help their children with revision made them feel that they were ‘not good enough’ as parents
- 31% said they’d offered their children money as a revision incentive to boost grades
- 52% said they’d like more help and advice on how to support their children through revision
Another frequent concern for parents was worrying about whether or not a child’s revision time was actually being used well for effective revision. Clinical psychologist Dr Anna Colton warned against parents channelling their own hopes and dreams into their children, and was clear about the importance of separating your own stress from theirs. Dr Colton suggested the best help a parent can give (on the assumption you don’t know their whole A Level physics syllabus) is to provide a calm, helpful and supportive environment at home.
Researchers have warned that music could face extinction as a subject in secondary schools, as pupils are increasingly under pressure to take Ebacc subjects. The English Baccalaureate, introduced by the coalition government in 2010, consists of students achieving a C grade or higher in English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language. The percentage of pupils entering and achieving the Ebacc is one government measurement of a school’s performance, and may well contribute to stifling the arts in schools. The proportion of GCSE candidates in state-funded schools who took the EBacc subjects rose from 22% in 2010 to almost 40% last year. However, the 47.9% of pupils being entered for at least one arts subject in 2016 is a decrease from 49.6% the previous year. Sussex University’s School of Education and Social Work surveyed secondary music teachers at 657 state and 48 private schools across England over five years, from the period 2012-13 to 2016-17…and the results aren’t pretty:
- Staff at about 60% of the state schools specifically mentioned the EBacc as causing a negative effect on the provision and uptake of music at their school, while just 3% believed it had benefitted the subject.
- The number of schools offering music Level 2 BTEC fell from 166 to just 50
- The number offering music GCSE fell from 85% to 79% in the same period
- In the 13-14 age group, schools offering compulsory music lessons fell ominously from 84% to 62%
- In terms of staffing, 39% of the teachers surveyed reported cuts to music staff numbers, while 17% reported increases.
- In 30% of secondary schools the music department consisted of just one teacher, up from 22% five years ago, the survey found.
The survey’s co-author Dr Ally Daubney has warned the government to take action against the erosion of the arts in schools, warning that without greater support, “music as a subject could be facing extinction.”
Primary school bans phones at the gate – Telegraph
A primary school has banned parents from using their mobile phones when collecting children at the gates. St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Middlesbrough, has put up signs at all three entrances encouraging parents to ‘Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile.’ Headteacher Liz King said of the signs: “They are simple, but they carry a really important message. We are trying to develop our speaking and listening in school and we thought it was a really simple way to get the message across.”
Many parents have welcomed the move, describing it as “great”, “brilliant” and saying it encourages more interaction and sets a good example, although not all feedback was positive, with another parents describing it as “a bit daft”. Research last year revealed that parental immersion in smarthphones can end up leaving some children neglected, and starting primary school lacking social skills or unable to hold a conversation.
Degree apprenticeships to increase by 650% – Telegraph
The government’s plans for more apprenticeships to fill the UK’s skills gap was given a boost with reports of a major increase in applications. According to Universities UK, applications for the higher education schemes will increase by more than 650 percent in 2018, with an additional 7,611 apprentices due to start university courses over the next three years. Apprenticeships offer an alternative route into higher education, one much less dependent on achieving particular GCSE/A Level results, and the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn.’ Companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Nestlé, IBM, Airbus and Transport for London are already working with universities to offer degree apprenticeships.
Glasgow primary schools to have gender-neutral toilets – Independent
All new primary schools in Glasgow will have gender-neutral toilets labelled ‘unisex’ in a move that it is hoped will help combat bullying and antisocial behaviour, while furthering the LGBTQIA agenda. It is also a cost-effective measure, saving on the need to construct separate male and female bathrooms at new schools. Many have reacted positively to the move, although some parents believe it could intrude on children’s privacy.
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 everything that’s trending in education.