NCTL can’t be sure teacher training grants used correctly, warns auditor

So many teacher training providers failed to produce accurate data about their trainees that the National Audit Office has said it cannot be sure funds are being used correctly and so has given a negative judgement of the National College for Teaching and Leadership accounts.

The NCTL, an executive agency of the Department for Education, provides £318 million in grants, mainly for training new teachers, and is responsible for recruiting and developing the school workforce.

After hearing concerns about the use of the grants, the NCTL sampled the student records held by training providers and found that 40 per cent of tested providers held inaccurate trainee data, potentially affecting the amount of grant funding they received.

A quarter of sampled training providers also could not provide adequate student data to back up their grant funding claims to within £1,000.

The NCTL gathers evidence on the way funding is spent through ‘grant returns’, which training providers must prepare and have certified by independent reporting accountants.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

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Lower grade boundaries for maths GCSE resit exam spark concern

Concerns have been raised after new data showed that pupils needed as little as 13% of marks in a higher-tier maths GCSE paper to achieve a ‘standard pass’ in their resits last term.

The grade boundaries for a ‘standard pass’ – a grade 4 in the new higher tier maths GCSE paper – have all dropped from last summer for the three major exam boards.

In Edexcel’s higher mathematics GCSE paper, a pass would have been achieved with 13% of the overall marks in November – compared to 17% in the summer.

Meanwhile, pupils who took the higher maths GCSE paper for AQA needed 17% of the marks to pass – compared to 19% in the summer.

Read the full article on the Tes.

Damian Hinds becomes new Secretary of State for Education

In a week of shake-ups and break-ups which saw Justine Greening resign from her ministerial position of Education Secretary, a position she held for only 546 days, SCHOOLS NorthEast takes a look at what we know about her successor, Damian Hinds, so far…

Political Career

Secretary of State for Education – Jan 2018 –

Minister of State (DWP) July 2016 – Jan 2018

Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury) May 2015 – Jul 2016

Assistant Whip (HM Treasury) Jul 2014 – Mar 2015

Education Select Committee Jul 2010 – Nov 2012

Member of Parliament for East Hampshire May 2010 –

Social Mobility

  • The new Secretary of State said little of note on education policy during the tenure of his predecessor. However, what we can glean from his previous comments and writings shows he has his own views on social mobility.
  • In 2014 he wrote: “Our children’s prospects are significantly more predictable from their parents’ social class than in most competitor nations. Today’s forty somethings have been less socially mobile than those born a decade earlier. The gap between the privately educated elite and the rest yawns pretty much as wide as ever…It is not that parents’ social class dictates their children’s social class. Rather, parents’ social class has a massive effect on their children’s educational attainment and it is that which predicts their eventual place in society. The link is an indirect one, and it can be broken through what is achieved at school and if/where you go to university.” Whether he will share Justine Greening’s vision of a social mobility agenda, an action plan for which was launched last month, remains to be seen.

Structures

  • It has been suggested that Mr Hinds was brought in to push the Prime Minister’s grammar schools agenda. While he was silent during the grammar schools debate in 2016, he was educated in a Catholic grammar school and has previously written: “There is no appetite in the country for a wholesale return to academic selection at 11, for good reasons, but why not at least one unashamedly academically elite state school have in each county or major conurbation?”
  • He supported the free schools initiative, suggesting they offer greater parental choice, but has been publicly neutral about academisation.
  • He has also taken an interest in Catholic schools, calling on the Government to scrap the rule requiring new faith schools to admit at least 50 per cent of their pupils from other faiths. The Government is very keen for more Roman Catholic schools to open but the Church has been reluctant to do so while the cap remains in place, as turning away Catholic pupils would violate Canon Law. However, it seems highly unlikely the Conservatives’ allies in the Democratic Unionist Party would ever support this move, making the Parliamentary arithmetic difficult.

Character and culture

  • Hinds has made it clear that he greatly values the importance of character development, and has previously praised the importance of extracurricular activities. Nicky Morgan’s “Character Development Fund” was abandoned by Justine Greening in favour of a new ‘Life Skills Programme’ in the twelve opportunity areas- could we see a return to something like it under Hinds?
  • He has supported the development of British values in young people but has expressed concerns about the danger of official definitions of what they are.
  • He has also advocated a need to focus on technological change, globalisation and the development of ‘soft skills’ and ‘workplace skills’. This would appear to put him at odds with Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who continues to favour former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s emphasis on strong disciplinary knowledge and rigour.

 

Following the departure of Robert Goodwill MP and Jo Johnson MP, the Department for Education now stands as follows:

Secretary of State for Education – The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP

Minister of State for School Standards – The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP

Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills – The Rt Hon Anne Milton MP

Minister for Higher Education – Sam Gyimah MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State – Nadhim Zahawi MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System – Lord Agnew

Justine Greening presses Government to ensure sex education is taught in all schools

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening has pressed the Government to ensure that relationships and sex education (RSE) is taught in all schools.
In her first comments to Parliament since Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle, Ms Greening called for cross-party support changes to the guidance for teaching RSE in primary and secondary schools.

Addressing a parliamentary question to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who took over Ms Greening’s brief as Minister for Women and Equalities in the Cabinet reshuffle this week, Ms Greening asked: “Can she confirm that the Government will push ahead with updating the guidance that’s now so out of date, but also if she will meet with myself, [Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities select committee] and also [shadow women and equalities minister Sarah Champion] to make sure we can have a cross-party support for the work that is being undertaken?”

Ms Rudd confirmed that she would be “delighted to work with [Ms Greening] to ensure that that is the case, and also across the House to ensure that the outcome we get is one that the whole House can support”.

Earlier this year, legislation passed by Parliament made relationships education compulsory in all primary schools, and relationships and sex education compulsory in all secondaries.

An eight-week consultation was launched last month. Schools are urged to contribute their views on how RSE should be delivered in the classroom here.

 

Current guidance, last updated in 2000, does not address risks to pupils such as sexting, online grooming and pornography.

Read the full article in the Tes.

Thousands of teachers are on long-term stress leave, new figures reveal

New figures have revealed that thousands of teachers in England are on long-term stress leave, with numbers rising each year.
The Liberal Democrats say the statistics indicate the ‘impossible pressures’ that teachers are under.

There were 3,750 teachers on long-term leave for stress during the academic year 2016-17, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. This represents an increase of five per cent since the previous year.

The Liberal Democrats said that the figures made clear “the impossible pressures” teachers are under. They added that the situation was exacerbated by the teacher recruitment crisis, and by an obsession with exam results.

Read the full article on the Tes.

Primary schools are being asked to trial lessons in identifying ‘fake news’

The battle against fake news is about to make its way into classrooms, as primary schools are sought for a pilot scheme to teach children how to critically analyse online information.

The News Wise programme wants to see ‘news literacy’ included in the school curriculum, beginning with pilots to teach children in years five and six how to access, navigate, analyse and participate in the news.

Initially focusing on primary schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children, the programme will create an evidence-based model on how best to introduce news literacy to primary school curriculums.

Developed jointly by the Guardian Foundation, the National Literacy Trust and the PHSE Association, the project will be funded by Google for its first year with the pilot launching this autumn.

Primary schools can register their interest to take part in the pilot here.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

DfE refuses to name financially troubled academies paying £150,000 salaries

The Department for Education is refusing to reveal which single-school academy trusts are paying leaders more than £150,000 despite having financial problems, because it does not want them placed under “undue pressure” and says they need a “safe space”.

Last month the department’s Education and Skills Funding Agency wrote to 29 standalone academy trusts that have paid leaders such salaries. Of those trusts, 13 were “at risk of financial difficulties” and were asked to explain their “rationale”.

However, the DfE refused to name any of the trusts concerned.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request by TES, the ESFA has listed all 29 trusts. But it has declined to specify which of them are the 13 that paid high salaries while facing financial problems, angering a teaching union which is calling for more accountability over the spending of public money.

The department’s FOI response states: “While there is a public interest in holding the government to account over its spending and holding academy executives to account over their financial management, it would be unfair to disclose this information.

“Disclosing the information could imply to the relevant trusts that communication with the ESFA is not a safe space and place undue pressure on trusts and or the ESFA to act on a complex issue.

“This could have a prejudicial effect on the ESFA’s ability to work with trusts on issues of pay and financial management, and prevent free and frank discussion.”

Read the full article in the Tes.

Academy executives cutting their own pay by up to 40%

Some academy trust Chief Executives are cutting their own salaries by up to 40% because of funding pressures and concerns about sending the right message to staff.

The news follows mounting controversy about the big salaries and pay rises enjoyed by many academy leaders.

And it comes amid calls for a more structured approach to academy executive pay. Critics of the current system are arguing for an external body to tackle the issue, while one coalition of multi-academy trusts in the North of England is considering introducing “self-regulation”.

Debbie Godfrey-Phaure, the chief executive of Avonbourne International Business and Enterprise Academy Trust – which runs two secondary schools, a primary and a sixth-form college in Bournemouth – has reduced her salary because of financial pressures at her trust.

See the full article and list of pay on the Tes.

White children more likely to suffer mental health issues, study finds 

A major study has found that white children are more likely to suffer mental health issues than their peers.

The rise of marital breakdown has been blamed for the higher instance of “emotional problems” among white children, with researchers pointing to “better family cohesion” in ethnic communities.

A report published today [THURS] details findings from the largest ever population based survey of children mental health and wellbeing in England. Researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families analysed survey responses from 30,000 children aged 11 to 14.

They found that white children were “significantly” more likely to experience mental health issues than those from black, Asian, mixed and other ethnic groups. Children were given a score based on their answers to series of questions about their emotional state, including whether they have experienced feelings of depression, anxiety or tearfulness.

Read the full article in The Telegraph.

If their score was above a certain threshold it meant their mental health issues were such that there was a “high likelihood” that an intervention, such as counselling, was necessary.

One in five white children (20 per cent) had scores that were above the threshold, meaning that their mental health issues were such that there was a “high likelihood” that an intervention was necessary, such as counselling. This compared to 14 per cent of children from other ethnic groups.

Botched computing test won’t count towards final GCSE grades, Ofqual confirms

Ofqual has confirmed that a 20-hour non-examined assessment in computer science will not count towards pupils’ final GCSE grades in 2018 or 2019 after tasks from the test were leaked online.

The regulator proposed changes to the assessment, currently worth 20% of the overall grade, after it discovered that tasks and detailed solutions were posted on forums and viewed “thousands of times”.

Now Ofqual has confirmed that the proposals will go ahead after 75% of respondents to a consultation on the issue backed changes to the way the tests are run this year and next. It is not yet known what will happen in 2020.

It means that although pupils will still sit the test this year, they will be given feedback on their performance, rather than a mark that affects their final grade.

Schools Week revealed last October that questions from the assessment, along with detailed solutions, were posted in online forums and viewed “thousands of times”, prompting the exam board Edexcel to replace the test.

Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, said the changes “will make the qualification as fair as it can be for all students”.

Read the full article in Schools Week.

AQA to review staff training after grade change debacle

The exam board AQA has announced plans to review its training for staff who review exam marks, following an investigation by Ofqual into a huge rise in the number of GCSE grades changed this year.

Ofqual has published an undertaking made by the exam board, in which it admits to not having “acted sufficiently” to change the behaviour and practices of reviewers after new rules came in last year.

The number of GCSE grades changed rocketed by 52 per cent this year, and Ofqual’s chief regulator Sally Collier this week blamed the rise on exam boards that did not follow new rules for grade reviews introduced in 2016.

Collier also alluded to regulatory action being taken against more than one exam board in relation to the increase when she addressed the parliamentary education committee on Tuesday, but would not say more.

Following a review of post-results data relating to reviews undertaken after this summer’s exams, Ofqual identified increases of marks and grades that it “considered to be inconsistent” with fully compliant application of the new rules.

Read the full article on Schools Week.