A new mental health initiative, Labour’s National Education Service and why teachers are now having to pay to stock their classrooms…
Education funding crisis – Tes, BBC, Guardian
The long-running education funding crisis has shown no sign of abating, with recent research revealing that one third (over 9,400) of state schools are now operating with a cash deficit. A coalition of teachers’ unions has also warned that funding problems have not been resolved, publishing figures that 88% of individual schools will have lost funding in real terms between 2015 and 2020. Many schools are facing fears of cuts and job losses, and “operating on a shoestring,” according to Tim Rawling, chair of governors at a Gloucestershire primary school. This is despite schools minister Nick Gibb’s claims that schools would have “the resources they need.”
Parents and teachers would likely beg to differ. A Tes survey reveals that the majority of state school teachers are using their own money to fund classroom supplies, so that they’re adequately stocked for the year, as schools are unable to do so themselves. A Tes survey of more than 1,800 teachers, conducted jointly with the NEU teaching union, reveals that 94% are having to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment. Two-thirds of the teachers polled said that they had been forced to pay for items or contribute cash because their schools were so short of funds; 73% said that they regularly purchased stationery items, such as pens, pencils and board markers; 58% had paid for books and 43% had paid for art materials. All at the same time as news that teachers’ salaries in the UK are down a real-terms 12%.
Similarly, an increasing number of parents – 4 out of 10 – are being asked to contribute funds to state schools that are failing to meet their budget requirements. Though this is not new, it is now an increasing trend, with many schools specifically mentioning budget black holes as one of the key issues. Acting head of PTA UK Michelle Doyle Wildman said parents’ support helps give children better educational experiences.
She added: “Parents are reporting they are contributing more to provide the essentials which many expect to be provided by the state.”
Politics and tuition fees – Guardian, Tes, Independent
Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has announced a ten-point plan for the party’s National Education Service, at the Labour Conference in Brighton. It aims to further involve communities and parents, emphasise collaboration and accountability, draw on evidence and international best practice for improvements and show greater greater regard to learners and educators in terms of their overall wellbeing. Rayner also pledged to reverse £500m in cuts to children’s Sure Start centres: one in three children’s centres have been lost since 2010 with at least two local authorities, Swindon and Solihull, reporting they no longer have any designated Sure Start centres.
Worrying that they are losing support amid younger votes (shockingly), the Conservative Party has considered cutting student tuition fees to £7500 a year, down from the current £9250 (but still way up from the previous £3000) as part of the Autumn Budget. The Government has come under intense pressure to ease the burden of student finances after warnings that most graduates will never clear their debts, and chancellor Philip Hammond is also looking at potentially capping the (hideous 6.1%) interest repayment rates, or for students paying less for courses that are cheaper to run. This move couldn’t come soon enough for students, many of whom have overpaid drastically on their student loan repayments. The average figure is £592, although for some students it is £5000 – £10,000, totalling a staggering a £50 million in 2016.
Exams and mental health – BBC, Telegraph
There’s currently an investigation into schools breaking GCSE rules by entering pupils twice for the same exam, on different boards, in order to boost league table results. Schools would then only submit the superior result, giving them an unfair advantage over other schools (and pupils) who would only take one paper. Hundreds of students from more than 50 schools were entered for Maths GCSE with more than one exam board in 2016, according to figures from the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual, the exam regulator – although it is still a very rare occurrence.
In better news, a £1.4 million pilot scheme is being launched in Wales, where NHS staff will be on hand to give better mental health support for students showing early signs of depression, anxiety or self-harm. In the 12 months to October 2016, there were 19,000 referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Wales – a 3,000 rise on the previous year, highlighting the need for greater support. Exam pressure, cyberbullying and social media all seem to have contributed to this increase. Speaking of the latter, a recent report suggests that Instagram is the worst platform for young people’s mental health. The poll asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score popular apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
The survey asked participants a series of questions about whether YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter had an impact on their health and well-being. Participants were asked to score each platform on 14 health and well-being issues. Based on these ratings, YouTube was considered to have the most positive impact on mental health, followed by Twitter and then Facebook; Snapchat and Instagram were given the lowest scores overall. In light of the findings, public health experts are calling for social media platforms to introduce a series of checks and measures to help tackle mental health, including:
- Pop-ups warning people that they have used social media for a long time (supported by 70% of young people surveyed)
- Social media platforms identifying users with mental health problems and “discreetly signposting places they can get support”
- Platforms highlighting when photos have been digitally manipulated – for example, fashion brands, celebrities and other advertising organisations could sign up to a voluntary code, allowing a small icon to be displayed on digitally altered photos
Bristol Universtiy has also just announced it will be spending £1 million on ‘well-being advisers‘, a team of 28 advisers and managers who will be embedded in academic departments, amid other moves to strengthen its counselling and help services.
New research from Cambridge University suggests that split infinitives – the bane of uptight 1950s English teachers – have become a part of everyday English, and should no longer be taught as grammatically incorrect. Other quirks that have become more commonly accepted include starting a sentence with ‘like’ or ‘so’ and ending a sentence with a preposition.
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.