Red Nose Day, digital literacy and the problem with behaviour in schools
Education advisor Tom Bennett this week said that more should be done to deal with bad behaviour at schools, which he believes has not been taken seriously enough, and is underestimated in Ofsted data. Bennett’s report, Creating a Culture: How school leaders can optimise behaviour, suggests there is enough of a problem nationally with behaviour for it to be a concern – namely that schools with particular behaviour problems should be funded to provide internal units to deal with troubled pupils. He called for strong leadership, and training for headteachers to help them come up with a coherent school behaviour strategy. Bennett acknowledged that, however effective a teacher may be, they “cannot intervene [on behaviour] with the same impact as a school leader can.” The Department for Education welcomed the report, and said it would use its findings to inform ongoing work to help and support schools to deal with this issue.
A £3.5 million scheme from the Scottish government will offer head teachers a training support package. The Excellence in Headship programme aims to help school leaders “improve critical self-awareness, leadership of learning, lead system change and organisational effectiveness”. Citing the importance of effective school leadership, Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney said: “It is vital we invest in our head teachers and support them to deliver superb schooling for children in Scotland”.
Mr Swinney also announced a £3m partnership with The Hunter Foundation for a series of leadership academies, and the government later announced plans for the expansion of early learning entitlement in a Holyrood statement.
A report published by social mobility charity The Challenge revealed that in 2016 segregation along ethnic or socioeconomic lines is a problem in English schools. Using official data for the years 2011 to 2016, researchers’ analysed the make-up of more than 20,000 state schools. A school was considered “segregated” if the proportion of ethnic minority pupils or pupils on free school meals was very different to the proportions at the 10 closest schools. The study found:
- 26% of primary schools and around 40% of secondaries were ethnically segregated.Nearly three in 10 primary schools (29.6 per cent) and over a quarter of secondary schools (27.6 per cent) are said to be split by social background.
- The study found that secondary schools are more likely to be segregated by ethnicity, while primaries are more divided along socio-economic lines.
- Kirklees, West Yorkshire, Tower Hamlets borough in London, and Rochdale, Lancashire, were found to have some of the most ethnically divided school communities.
- Faith schools are more ethnically segregated than other schools (28.8% against 24.5%)
- Grammars were among the most severely segregated by social background, with some 98% having significantly fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds compared to surrounding schools.
Jon Yates, director of The Challenge, said the government needs to do more both locally and nationally to address the problem which is at a ‘worrying level’ in some parts of the country.
Four in five teenagers say they suffer ‘emotional distress’ after starting secondary school, but claim teachers are ill-equipped to help them. In a survey of 500 secondary schools, just one student in 20 said they would turn to a teacher for help if they felt depressed, anxious, stressed or emotionally unable to cope. Currently, distressed teenagers are most likely to turn to parents or carers for help. The survey from mental health charity stem4 found that 79% of children as young as 12 and 13 now experience emotional distress after starting secondary school. Top of the list of anxieties is exam worries (41% of pupils), followed by work overload (31%), friendship concerns (28%), worries about being accepted by peers (23%), lack of confidence (26%), concerns about body image (26%), low self-esteem (15%) and feelings of being overwhelmed (25%).
Most schools are able to offer some level of support for mental health issues, but most cannot offer counselling, and only have access to a professional in the field one day a week or less. Theresa May has announced that all secondary schools in England are to be offered mental health first aid training to ensure children and young people get the help and support they need. However, the survey suggests what most pupils want is easy access to mental health professionals at school, not teachers who have been trained.
A committee of peers have recommended that didgital literacy should be taught to children alongside the three Rs, as part of the early years curriculum. The House of Lords Communications Committee also suggested the government should appoint a ‘children’s digital champion’ and should consider forcing major industry players to sign up to a code of conduct if they refuse to comply with child-friendly standards. The peers said: “online responsibilities, social norms and risks” should be included in mandatory, Ofsted-inspected personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons. They believe “no child should leave schools without a well-rounded understanding of the digital world.”
The latest figures show a 7% drop in acceptances on to teacher training courses for this year, and there are fears it could get even tougher, with recruitment targets missed for five consecutive years. Malcolm Trobe, acting general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, urged the government to make teaching a more attractive career option. “Schools have to rely upon supply staff and non-specialists to teach many classes.” He continued, “There are severe teacher shortages in schools across the country, particularly in maths and science”. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, found the figures deeply worrying, blaming excessive teacher workloads, funding cuts at schools and salaries falling behind other graduate professions.
Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said the recruitment crisis was of the government’s making, citing their “half baked schemes to desperately lure people into teaching” which “cannot compensate for the demoralisation of existing staff”. However, the DfE said there were more teachers than ever before in England’s schools, and that they are investing £1.3bn in recruitment over this Parliament. They are also supposedly devising schemes to ensure new teachers stayed in their jobs in those areas that have a poor record of retaining teachers.
Schools across the UK celebrated Red Nose Day last week, with events ranging from bake sales, to fancy dress or wearing pyjamas. They helped to raise a staggering £73 million for comic relief!
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.