Education News Weekly – 3rd April, 2017

April 3, 2017 by Minerva Tutors,

Sats to be scrapped, Ofsted to snoop on parents, and the highest university tuition fees in the world.



Ofsted consider Facebook and Twitter snooping – Independent

Ofsted have said they will consider snooping on the social media accounts of students and parents to find out trends about certain schools. Ofsted’s  “innovations and regulations plan” details how it could monitor Facebook and Twitter pages to determine which schools may be in need of intervention. Data protection campaigners argue the last thing schools currently need is more surveillance, while experts in data analysis have pointed out that any conclusions drawn are likely to be unreliable. Criticising the proposed move, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Social media is a place where people go to express their frustrations, not provide measured constructive feedback… For a government agency to use it as data would call into question its commitment to evidence-based practice.”


England now has highest university fees on Earth – Independent

Parents (and teenagers), look away now: a new analysis suggests England has the highest university tuition fees in the world. According to the Student Loan Calculator, the average annual cost of £9,188, makes it significantly more than higher education in the US, where the average student pays £7,518. France, Germany, Italy and Austria are all below £1000 a year, while Scotland and Scandinavia provide free university for citizens. However, in mitigation, there is the fact the England is home to a far higher proportion of the world’s top 50 universities than anywhere else in Europe (with Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial all in the top 10), but there is still the real possibility that fees could increase again in the foreseeable future


Engineers encourage schools to teach creative problem solving – BBC

A report from the Royal Academy of Engineering has encouraged schools to teach ‘creative problem solving’ in order to boost learning. A focus on ‘playful experimentation’ rather than ‘subjects’ could help students to think more like engineers, overcoming our current skills gap in the field. The report examined the effects of three pilot schemes to unite the worlds of education and engineering, which ran in England and Scotland from 2014 to 2016 across 33 schools and a further education college and involved 3,000 pupils and 84 teachers. Students were encouraged to adapt existing materials and visualise the effects of their work, and the researchers found pupils’ abilities to tackle open-ended questions and generate creative solutions improved, while teachers became more open to the children’s ideas.

Overall, the report found improvements, not only in science and maths, but in pupils’ artistic abilities, communication skills and confidence. It calls for more:

  • Support and training for teachers in bringing engineering into the curriculum
  • Research on developing an engineering focussed curriculum
  • Consideration of how best to engage engineers in education


 Sats for 7 year olds in England to be scrapped – Guardian

National curriculum tests for seven-year-olds in England are set to be axed and replaced with teacher assessment of four and five-year-olds. The DfE said the move is aimed at helping to “reduce the burden” of assessments on teachers and pupils. Education secretary Justine Greening wants the new, earlier evaluation to be “a stable assessment system that helps children learn, freeing up teachers to do what they do best: supporting children to fulfil their potential.” Teaching unions have welcomed the move, after rallying against standardised curriculum testing at Key Stage 1, but have still expressed concern about assessing children as young or four or five (although, supposedly, children won’t know these assessments are taking place).


‘Only 2 Students’ to get top marks in new GCSEs – Guardian

The days of a high proportion of pupils at top schools getting a string of A*s at GCSE are over, according to Dr Tim Leunig, chief scientific adviser to the DfE. Dr Leunig predicted in a personal tweet that only about 2 students in England will get straight 9s with the introduction of more rigorous exam syllabuses (and in the new 1 – 9 assessment system). It has already been established that the number of top grade 9s that are going to be awarded for the new exams will be far fewer than previous A* grades, which currently cover 7-8% of GCSE grades. The comments are likely to upset teachers, parents and students at high achieving schools, and were described as “really unhelpful” by Geoff Barton, general secretary designate of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). You can find out about the new GCSE grading system here.


Oxford to put up more portraits of women – BBC

Hoping to promote greater diversity on its walls, Oxford University has revealed the identity of 20 women whose portraits will soon be on display. In among the portraits are criminologist and disability rights campaigner, Marie Tidball, scientist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti approved of the move, saying it would better reflect the university’s staff and student make-up, as well as the diversity of modern Britain. 

Oxford has faced questions recently about whether it’s admitting enough students from state school backgrounds, while it also dealt with the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign last year, aiming to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes after claims that the Victorian colonialist’s attitudes on race made him an unsuitable figure to be commemorated. By redressing the balance of ‘dead white males’ to everyone else, Oxford’s head of equality Trudy Coe believes they are “sending a signal”.


Bristol students demand colonialist tower name change – Telegraph

Likely inspired by ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, students at Bristol have launched a petition to rename the Wills Memorial Tower, over its links to the slave trade. Henry Overton Wills III, Bristol’s founding chancellor, used profits from his investments in the tobacco trade to fund the university’s royal charter. Students say the building’s name glorifies the slave trade, and undermines Bristol’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity. They are lobbying for Wills Tower be renamed after “somebody the entire university population can be proud of.” Responding to the petition, the university said that it would be “disingenuous” to “cover up” their historical relationship with the Wills family, adding that it was important to be “open and reflective about our history”.


And finally…

London art platform launches first educational programme

Crawl Arts, a London-based platform using art and creativity to engage with local environmental issues, has recently launched School of Crawl, their first creative educational programme designed to teach students about the biodiversity around their school. They are hosting a week of activities, packed with visually aided learning, an outdoor activities session with the Royal Parks Foundation Education Centre in Hyde Park, and helping students to make their own up-cycled and “activated” T-shirts. Their own printed designs will be based on the wildlife they share their space with, while targeting the fashion industry’s excessive waste problem.



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.

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