Robot teachers, a backlash against social media and the vital importance of parental involvement…
Research from North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University, and the University of California, Irvine finds that parental involvement is a more significant factor in a child’s academic success than the qualities of the school itself. However much parents spend on school fees, tutors or living in the right catchment area, it’s important to remember to stay involved with your child’s education. Teachers shared some of their best tips to do this, including: reading together, having meals together, being a good role model, limiting screen time, working with teachers (not against them!), valuing education and crucially, staying involved! The full list of teachers’ advice can be seen here
Recent research shows that even infants learn the benefits of hard work by watching their parents persevere with arduous tasks.
Social media is experiencing a (possibly overdue) backlash from young people in the UK. Many young people have decided that the scourges of online abuse, fake news and endless advertising on social media are having a negative effect on their mental health, and 63% said they wouldn’t care if social media had never been invented. The survey of around 5,000 students at independent and state schools in England was commissioned by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), a body which represents the heads of independent schools around the world. Other findings include:
- 71% said they had taken temporary digital detoxes to escape social media.
- 57% said they had received abusive comments online
- 56% admitted to being on the edge of addiction
- 52% said social media makes them feel less confident about how they look or how interesting their life is
- More than 60% believed friends showed a “fake version” of themselves on social media
- 85% of pupils questioned denied they were guilty of that themselves.
However, it wasn’t all negative feedback: memes, photo filters and snapchat/instagram stories were all cited as redeeming features of social media. Asked to recommend improvements, students urged less advertising (71%), less fake news (61%), more creative content (55%) and greater privacy (49%). A third of all surveyed also said they’d like more of an opportunity to earn income through social media.
Technology is set to play a vital role in helping the 263 million children globally who are not in school, delegates at the annual Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) heard. Some teachers are already offering global internet-based seminars, earning huge sums in the process. Mark Steed, the director of Dubai private school Jess, also predicted that robots could be used to teach maths and reading to primary school pupils, while virtual reality headsets could allow a child in the developing world to sit in on lessons at a top independent school – as if they were in the classroom. He suggested the for-profit school sector had the resources to invest in the technology required to deliver the concept.
Speaking of educating deficits around the world (as opposed to in the UK), he said: “I think technology is going to become part of the solution.”
Education secretary John Swinney announced that the Scottish government is to offer £20,000 bursaries to people willing to change career to become teachers in key subject areas. Ministers are seeking ways to boost recruitment of teachers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem). He said it was necessary to “reach beyond recent graduates” to attract professionals into teaching, after several Scottish councils struggled to attract teachers in Stem subjects.
The deputy first minister said: “We need to recruit more teachers in these subjects. And to do that, we need to reach beyond recent graduates and attract people who have the appropriate subject degree but are working in business or industry. “These ‘career-changers’ still need to go through initial teacher education before they can become teachers – we will never compromise on quality – but we can make it easier for them to make that career change”.
An investigation last year by the Quality Assurance Agency found hundreds of companies were producing work for students to pass off as their own, from £15 essays to £7,000 dissertations. Universities minister Jo Johnson has asked QAA to produce new guidelines to prevent this “unacceptable and pernicious” cheating, that “undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don’t cheat.” These include:
- Ban essay mills from advertising on campus and block their websites
- Use software to spot changes in students’ personal writing styles
- Make clear that cheats could miss out on their qualifications
- Help struggling students with their writing and study skills
- Include students on academic policy and misconduct panels
- Improve support for whistleblowers
The National Union of Students is launching its own campaign against essay cheats, after posters last year advertising such services on the tube near universities. Amatey Doku, NUS vice-president for higher education, said some students were turning to essay mills because the “overwhelming” pressure students face to get the highest grades, when saddled with debts of £50,000 plus. He said some were having to spend so much time earning money to pay for their studies that time for academic work was squeezed.
“Many websites play on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students, particularly homing in on students’ fears that their academic English and their referencing may not be good enough… Making money by exploiting these anxieties is disgusting.”
In just seven years Feversham primary academy has gone from being in special measures and 3.2% behind the national average in English, to being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted and in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths. The headteacher, Naveed Idrees, has embedded music, drama and art into every part of the school day, with up to six hours of music a week for every child, and the results are remarkable. It is 7.1 points above the average for reading and 3.4 above for writing. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average, and even more notable given that 99% of students speak English as an additional language, and half arrive at the school speaking no English whatsoever.
The school’s attendance has increased to 98%, as the amount of music taught to each pupil has risen. Every child will get at least two hours of music a week. As a bare minimum, each child gets a 30-minute music lesson, a half-hour follow-up lesson, plus a one-hour music assembly with a guest musician and group singing. Songs are incorporated into other classes and pupils often sing about times tables, or history.
Idrees, who became headteacher in 2013, admits the new approach was a “big risk” but he says he is now convinced it could transform other struggling schools.
A primary school facing closure in Yorkshire has stayed open to teach the one student it has left. The unnamed girl, aged 10, receives a full education at Ings Community Primary and Nursery School in Skipton, North Yorkshire, although no other pupils are enrolled.
The pupil is taught by a full-time teacher, a part-time headteacher, support teachers and a receptionist. The school was ordered to close last December, and though the other 41 students found places at other lcoal schools, one didn’t, and the school is legally obliged to stay open until she does.
Have you seen road rage at the school gates?
After this shocking incident in Surrey (Telegraph), when a parent drove into a teacher at the school gates, leading to a 10 month jail term, and this report of police stationed outside primary schools in Hampstead due to parental road rage (Standard), Tes magazine () has posed the question: what can headteachers do? Answers on a postcard.
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.