Education News Weekly – 4th October, 2017

October 4, 2017 by Minerva Tutors,

Wrong exams grades, frugal students and the cost of living near a top state school…


Tories’ new funding formula for schools merely ‘papering over the cracks’ – Independent

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, said schools will be given a funding rise of 0.5 per cent per pupil next year and a 1 per cent increase in 2019-20. The most under-funded schools will see their budgets rise by 3 per cent. However, the rise for most schools is lower than the current 2.9 per cent rate of inflation, meaning it equates to a funding cut in real terms. This led Layla Moran MP, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson to accuse Greening of, “Simply papering over the cracks in our education system”.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said the announcement did “nothing to reverse” budget cuts that schools are already facing. She said: “For many pupils and schools, funding will fall in real terms between now and 2020, which comes on top of a £2.7bn cut in real terms since 2015.

“There is no new money for education at all, and this funding for schools is coming from other cuts to education budgets.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The fundamental problem is there is not enough funding going into education,” and this is backed up by the IFS, who say that school funding will have fallen in real terms by 5% come 2019.


Parents paying an extra £129,000 for houses near the best state schools – Independent

Parents seeking to avoid the intimidating fees of many independent schools are instead faced with the intimidating cost of property in the catchment area of top state schools. Properties near top state schools have an average house price of £415,844 – which is £128,615 or 45% higher than the average house price across the country at £287,229. It is also nearly 11 times average annual earnings, according to the study by Lloyds Bank. Prices for such properties have surged faster than the national average over the last five years, with houses in the most expensive areas being up to 150% more than average prices in the surrounding area.


Henrietta Barnett School, where nearby housing is 59% more expensive than comparable surrounding property.


Student loans and tuition fees – BBC, Telegraph, Guardian

The Tories announced plans to freeze tuition fees at £9,250 for the moment, abandoning a proposed rise, as well as raising the repayment threshold from £21,000 to £25,000 will save some graduates up to £15,700 over a lifetime. This is widely seen as a bid to appeal to younger voters, who abandoned the Conservatives in droves at the last election, in favour of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that the decision to increase the threshold for repaying student loans is a “big and expensive giveaway to graduates” which will raise the cost of higher education to the taxpayer by 40% over the long run – while costing the Treasury £2.3bn per year.

At the same time, Universities minister Jo Johnson has suggested that ‘student loans’ should be renamed ‘graduate contribution’ tax, in a move that seems to desperately miss the point. Rather than proposing cutting tuition fees (the highest in the world) or adjusting the aggressive 6.1% interest repayment rate, Johnson insists that students saddled with £50,000 plus in debt are really worried about the “terminology of debt and loans.” And in a discussion about living costs, and the fact that maintenace loans are insufficient for many students, Johnson has also claimed that “frugal students won’t need help from their parents.” Presumably he covered his own costs for Oxford University, as well as those famously cheap tailcoats they demand you wear at the Bullingdon Club.

Universities minister Jo Johnson, in his frugal student days.


Headteacher: inaccurate exam grades will affect children’s futures – Telegraph

Chris King, chairman of the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), has warned that children could have future careers blighted by the fact that a third of exam results in certain GCSE and A Level subjects are “inaccurate.” This summer, Ofqual published research about marking consistency, where they looked at a sample of GCSE and A-level exam papers in a range of subjects over the past four years.

They found that the grades awarded to around 30 per cent of English and Geography students were inconsistently awarded – meaning that the grade awarded by ordinary examiners deviated from the “definitive” grade as determined by a group of senior examiners. The research, published in a presentation titled Quality of marking – confidence and consistency, found that up to 40 per cent of History paper grades were inconsistently awarded, while for Religious Studies it was between 30 and 40 per cent. Mr. King highlighted the importance of accurate grades, as the most competitive university courses will often dismiss applicants who have under-performed, and the life options of students depend on them.


Widest ever gender gap in university places – BBC

The latest official figures show 55% of women entering higher education by the age of 30 compared with 43% of men. The proportion of women pursuing degrees has risen from 47% in 2012 – an annual increase of 18,000 more individual female students. But there are fewer male students starting this year than in 2011 – with the gender gap now at its widest ever point.

Though there are many theories as to hy this may be the case, none is by any means conclusive:

  • Female students get better A-level results, and so are likely to get more university places.
  • Nursing has been made a graduate profession, and with its very high proportion of women entrants, this has pushed up overall female student numbers.
  • An exam system based on courseworkrather than final exams, which tended to favour more consistently conscientious girls. This is now being reversed in schools, but will take a number of years to show any impact.
  • Women are likely to gain more, financially, from a degree, with a wider gap in earnings between graduate and non-graduate women than men
  • Underachievement of white working class boys– a widely acknowledged problem that pushes down rates of male entry into university


And finally…

‘Women’s’ Oxford college fields all male University Challenge team – BBC

St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, set-up in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth for women who couldn’t afford the fees of other colleges, and started accepting men in 1987, faced criticism for fielding an all male University Challenge team. Although UC has been criticised for being too male-dominated, on this occasion St Hugh’s said team members were selected by students.


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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