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					The TES
29/2/08

News summary

Teachers back compulsory sex education in primaries (lead story)
A TES survey of almost 2,000 teachers showed three-quarters of them want
compulsory sex and relationships lessons. More than 60% in primaries, but only 35%
in secondaries, felt it should start in Year 5 or 6. A quarter of primary staff would like
lessons to begin in Year 3. The survey results come as the Government this week
launched a review group to investigate sex education, a vital part of its drive to make
pupils lead healthier lives. At present, sex education is only statutory as part of the
science curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds.
In many schools, the focus in sex education is on biological functions, rather than
relationships, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Some do offer more
detailed information, as part of the pshe curriculum, but parents have the right to
withdraw their children from these classes. The TES survey found that almost half of
the teachers had been asked to teach sex education on occasion – but three-quarters of
those had been given no training. Rebecca Findlay, from the Family Planning
Association, said, ‘Teachers suddenly find themselves thrown head first into a subject
they know nothing about teaching.’

Lauded schools are on ‘failing’ hit list (p4)
More than 70 schools officially praised this week for being among the most improved
in the country are also on a Government hit list of ‘failing’ schools. The Specialist
Schools and Academies Trust hosted a dinner for 359 schools that have made
significant progress over three years in raising pupils’ results, but more than one in
five of them are among the 638 secondaries singled out by Gordon Brown for closure,
or local authority intervention. Mr Brown has said their 2007 GCSE results amount
to failure because fewer than 30% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C grades including
English and maths.

No appetite for strike over pay deal (p4)
There is no widespread appetite for a strike over pay, despite the majority of teachers
being unhappy with the new 3-year pay deal, a union poll has revealed. Around
14,000 NASUWT members responded to a survey canvassing their views on the
planned annual increases of 2.3%. More than two thirds said they disagreed with the
pay deal, but there was no real support for industrial action. A spokeswoman for the
ATL said that members were, ‘overwhelmingly against strike action.’ The NUT has
balloted its members over a possible one-day strike on 24th April. Ballot papers are
due back on 31st March.

Sixth formers shun science (p5)
Government statistics released this week have revealed that a fifth of state school
sixth forms entered no pupils for A-level physics last year, while one in 10 had no
maths entrants. Headteachers’ leaders say the figures indicate that pupils are deserting
traditional subjects because they view them as too difficult. The DCSF said changes
to the science curriculum, designed to make it more fun, engaging and relevant, were
on the right track.

Ten hours extra for 10% more pay (p8)
An academy in the West Midlands is offering teachers a pay rise of up to 10% in
return for working longer hours. Jean Hickman, head of the Walsall Academy in
Bloxwich, called for all schools to be given the same freedoms as her academy for
setting teachers’ pay and conditions. Mrs Hickman told the Commons’ education
select committee that her pupils received up to 10 hours more lessons a week, which
helped them improve exam results. She added that although staff are contracted to
work from 8.15am to 5.15pm, they receive 20% non-contact time, meaning they do
not have to take work home with them. Her comments followed a report published
this week by the think tank Reform, which also called for freedoms enjoyed by
academies to be extended to schools. (www.reform.co.uk).

Inequality breeds more violence among teenagers (p16)
Teenagers growing up in areas with big gaps in educational attainment are more likely
to be convicted of violent or race crimes. A study by the Institute of Education
compared maths test scores of 14-year-olds with local youth conviction rates over
three years. It found higher conviction rates in areas of pupils clustered at either end
of the performance range. Schools have had to set 2009 targets based on the
proportion of children progressing across two levels within four years. Guidance sent
to local authorities says the new progress targets will, ‘help tackle the variance and
the uneven performance that are a feature of the current system.’

£1bn anti-truancy bill, but 63,000 skip class daily (p22)
Heads say parents taking pupils on term-time holidays are partially to blame for
truancy figures rising to a new high. Pupils were absent without authorisation from a
record 1% of all schools sessions during 2006/7. The statistics provided details for the
first time of the reasons why pupils miss school and showed that agreed family
holidays accounted for 10% of all school absence, with unauthorised holidays making
up a further 1%. Sickness was the biggest reason of all, accounting for 55% of school
absence.

Atheists join RE group (p25)
Atheists should be given a bigger role in deciding the RE curriculum in England and
Wales, according to a report on freedom of religion by the United Nations. The
content of the subject is decided separately in each local authority area by groups
known as syllabus conferences. Non-believers are not allowed to be full members of
the conferences, although some committees have ignored this advice. A report by
Asma Jahangir, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said it
seemed vital that different views were properly represented when deciding the
curriculum. Her recommendations follow an announcement by the Government that
it will review RE teaching after it was criticised by Ofsted for its inconsistent quality.

Union call for fair NQT deal (p12)
The NASUWT teachers’ union has written to Jim Knight, the schools minister, to
raise concerns over the treatment of NQTs in schools that are not meeting their
obligations to the new staff. Chris Keates, the union’s general secretary, has called for
fines to be imposed on offending schools.
The NASUWT has been tracking a batch of young members. Half of the 50 teachers
who came to a feedback session this month said they had no mentor or structured
programme of support. The majority were given classes that were openly
acknowledged to be difficult. And some only had temporary contracts ‘to ensure they
were suitable for the job’. Excessive classroom observation was also a complaint.
There are no official figures for drop-out rates, but 38,296 people qualified in 2005-06
and only 26,957 passed induction in the following year. As only 38 people failed their
induction, this leaves 11,301 unaccounted for. The Training and Development
Agency for Schools denies that problems for new teachers are widespread, but said it
will monitor the situation.

5 things to think about this week (p27)
    1. New ways to ease pupils’ transition
       One Luton academy has established a ‘foundation academy’ for Year 7, in a
       separate building with its own teaching team.
    2. Let’s hear it for voice training
       Teachers suffer more than other workers from throat and voice problems
       (www.voicecare.org.uk)
    3. Help for the bullies – and their parents
       What strategies are there for counselling bullies and supporting their parents?
       (www.parentlineplus.org.uk)
    4. Calling budding scriptwriters
       Teachers TV is running its Staffroom Monologues competition again
       (www.teachers.tv/)
    5. TV looks at violence in schools
       Do you want to help a TV company that’s working on a Dispatches
       programme? (www.18u.org.uk; www.atl.org.uk)


And finally...
A south-east school has expressed disbelief after a teenager whose first language is
Russian scored zero marks in a Russian AS-level oral exam. Under the rules of his
Edexcel exam, the Latvian born 17-year-old was supposed to speak about food, diet
and health in Russia. Instead he spoke about his own food and drink preferences,
scoring nothing for his knowledge and understanding. The examiner refused to assess
the candidate’s response to questions or quality of language as a ‘rubric offence’ had
been committed.


Included in The TES Magazine
Open all hours Can flexi-timetables work? p14
No way out The nightmare of disciplinary hearings p26
ICT Special report p56


Also included in the TES is the first in a new series of pull-outs called ‘The Big 5’.
This week’s is entitled ‘Be Healthy’ and includes articles on childhood obesity and
sex education.

				
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