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					The TES
20.6.08

News summary

Threatened schools are doing well (lead story)
Nearly half of the secondary schools under the greatest threat of closure are
performing above the national average by one of the Government’s main yardsticks.
The Government announced last week that its new National Challenge would target
638 secondary schools missing the benchmark for 30% of pupils getting five good
GCSE grades. The TES analysed the contextual value added scores (CVA) for these
schools, and found that 105 of the 240 achieved better results than were predicted for
their intakes. Among them was the Grange School, Oldham, which had one of the top
50 CVA scores in the country and gained coveted high-performing specialist school
status. Graeme Hollinshead, its head, said the Government’s campaign was ‘ill-
informed and ill-judged’. Some schools on the list have had letters from Jim Knight,
the schools minister, congratulating them on their value-added GCSE results. In the
past, ministers have spoken highly of the CVA measure, adding it to league tables in
2007.
Last week ministers said they were taking CVA into account in their crackdown on
underperforming schools. But asked whether ministers were aware of the CVA of the
bottom 240 schools, Mr Knight told The TES there had not been ‘detailed analysis
school by school’. CVA scores would be looked at, he said, but it would be raw
results that counted in the end. If schools were not above the 30% GCSE threshold by
2011 then ‘there will have to be measures to radically turn that around.’ John Bangs,
head of education at the NUT, said, ‘This just shows the absurdity of drawing the line
using raw results and it blows out the attempts by Government to make performance
tables fair through CVA.’

Women, step back and shut up (p3)
Female teachers need to stop talking so much and at such a high pitch if they are to
engage with boys in classes, a parenting expert claims. Celia Lashlie, an education
adviser and author from New Zealand, said women are important to boys’ learning,
but they need to learn from their male colleagues. Women should make more use of
silence, asking a question then giving boys time to think before answering, and non-
verbal cues such as raised eyebrows. They also should talk at a lower pitch. ‘I’ve been
in classes with young female teachers, and by the end of the session my ears hurt,’
says Ms Lashlie, a self-described feminist.
In secondary schools just 40% of classroom teachers are men. Ms Lashlie
recommends heads ‘defeminise’ the workforce by employing more men and dealing
with teenage boys’ fathers rather than their mothers. Some schools are already
considering making fathers sign an admissions charter agreeing that they will be the
first point of contact with the school. Ms Lashlie said boys need their fathers or other
male role models to help them grow into ‘good men’, but instead they are coddled by
mothers. ‘Women need to step back, and shut up,’ she says. Her comments come as
the Government campaigns to involve fathers more in children’s learning.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said Ms Lashlie’s
proposals for schools were ‘a load of claptrap’. ‘It is disappointing that a woman has
felt the need to pander to the views of a tiny group of men who present themselves as
the oppressed minority,’ she said. Becky Francis, professor of education at
Roehampton University, said teachers, male or female, needed to help boys develop
their communication skills, rather than playing to stereotypes of boys as
incommunicative. ‘In fact, the profound gender gap in literacy and communication
suggests that boys have got a lot to learn from girls,’ she said.

Markers unsure of meeting deadline (p4)
National test papers were still being delivered to examiners’ homes this week, despite
the fact that all KS3 marking is due to be finished by 23rd June. It is not clear how
long each marker will take to get through the extra allocation, but many have
commented that it is unlikely the deadline will be met. A spokesman for the National
Assessment Agency said, ‘We have been given assurances by ETS (Europe) that all
scripts will be returned by July 8. We are keeping a close eye on it, and all indications
thus far are that the marking is going to schedule.’

Disability training (p4)
Teachers will receive £500,000 worth of training to help them support pupils with
disabilities, the Training and Development Agency for Schools has announced. The
money is intended to help trainees adapt their teaching to those with special
educational needs. Their training will include sessions on dyslexia, autism and
behavioural problems.

Specialism soars (p4)
79 more schools across England have been given specialist status, ministers
announced this week. This means that 92% of secondaries are now specialist.
Elizabeth Reid, chief executive of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust,
congratulated the schools and said it showed their commitment to raising standards.

Support staff ‘bullied by demon heads’ (p6)
School support staff complained this week that they were being routinely bullied and
intimidated by ‘demon headmasters’. The national conference for Unison heard that
some were forced to teach classes or work extra hours without pay by heads who told
them that children’s education would otherwise suffer. Others had phoned union
representatives for help from inside cupboards because they were scared to be caught
complaining. Paul Holmes, a Unison representative from Kirklees, told the conference
in Bournemouth that most schools were ‘run on fear’ by the headteacher.
Ministers agreed this year to a negotiating body that would cover most of England’s
estimated 500,000 classroom and learning assistants, caretakers, cleaners and dinner
ladies. But members of Unison argue that the plans do not go far enough and that the
body should also include teachers. Christina McAnea, the union’s head of education,
said a national pay deal would go some way towards stopping schools and local
authorities taking advantage of such workers, who are among the worst-paid in the
public sector.

Firms dealing with schools need ‘ethical audit’, say researchers (p6)
Profit-making firms that sell products and services to schools or sponsor academies
should be given an ‘ethical audit’ first, according to a report by academics at the
Institute of Education in London. They pointed to reports last year that a Wakefield
college had been considering, but later decided against, a partnership with
BearingPoint, a multinational company that has advised President George Bush on the
reconstruction of Iraq. One of the academics, Stephen Ball, commented, ‘I have an
ethical ISA where they vet the companies my money is invested in to make sure there
is no connection to the arms trade or exploitative business. I imagine a similar model
for education contractors – there needs to be an official process.’

Every school to get a champion of assessment for learning (p7)
Every school in England is to have a senior teacher trained in ‘assessment for learning
(AfL)’ within the next two years under plans to make it a central part of classroom
practice to improve pupil achievement. Ministers this month published a 20-page
document setting out a £150 million, three-year strategy to promote AfL, also known
as the formative assessment approach. The Government wants every child to know
what they are doing, and what they need to do to improve and set themselves on an
‘ambitious trajectory of improvement.’ Over the next academic year, every school
will be given access to web-based tools to review their AfL practice. In addition, all
must try the Assessing Pupils’ Progress system developed by the QCA, which
presents a checklist for teachers to identify pupils’ strengths and weaknesses in KS2
and KS3 English, maths and science. By 2010, every school will be expected to have
a member of its SMT responsible for ‘leading the development of strong assessment
systems.’
However, the academics who developed AfL say encouraging pupils to think of their
progress in terms of numerical targets misses the point. Paul Black, emeritus
Professor of science education at Kings College, London pioneered the research. He
said, ‘The main idea conveyed by this strategy is the belief that target-setting and
frequent assessment of learning will help pupils learn more effectively. This is not
assessment for learning. It may help learning, but it is not what I and colleagues have
been writing about and helping teachers with since 1998.’ A DCSF spokeswoman
said the strategy had been developed with experts at the Chartered Institute of
Educational Assessors, the QCA and the National Strategies. She said, ‘We want
every child to know how they are doing and to understand their next step and how to
get there. And we want every teacher to learn from what they and their peers do well.’

Functional tests will make it harder to meet GCSE target (p10)
Mike Cresswell, director general of AQA has said that on present trends, the
proportion of pupils getting a C grade or above at GCSE will decline on 2012, due to
the introduction of the functional skills tests. Dr Cresswell suggests that the
Government will find it easier to hit its target of no school having fewer than 30% of
pupils achieving that benchmark in 2011 than in 2012. This is handy for ministers,
who brought the target forward from 2012 to 2011 in March. Dr Cresswell advocates
simply reporting functional skills pass rates alongside those of English, maths and
ICT GCSEs, allowing pupils to achieve a C grade without passing the functional skills
test. They would be able to take these tests and gain certificates to show an employer.
This is currently what is happening in Wales. AQA’s website includes examples of
possible functional skills test questions (www.aqa.org.uk).

Uninspired science lessons demotivate pupils, says inspectors (p18)
The National curriculum and the testing regime lead to boring and repetitive science
lessons, inspectors said this week. Ofsted found that too much time was spent
preparing pupils for exams instead of allowing children to do hands-on experiments.
Christine Gilbert, chief inspector, said, ‘Science is a fascinating and exciting subject,
yet for many pupils it lacks appeal because of the way it is taught.’ Lesson planning
was highlighted as a recurring weakness. Weaker schools focused too much on
covering GCSE specifications, leading to ‘boredom and frustration.’ The Government
has promised £140 million over the next three years to increase the number of
specialist science teachers, train new higher level science teaching assistants and fund
school science clubs.

5 key leadership questions (p21)
   1. Why can’t we achieve best practice consistency of systems and approach in
        our 3,000-plus secondary schools? Wouldn’t that make them less dependent
        on the personality of a single leader? Travelodge and Asda manage it, after all.
   2. How often do we use the word ‘team’ when really we’re describing a
        collection of individuals who sometimes occupy the same space for a while?
   3. Heads say to children, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You learn from
        them.’ Do they say the same thing to teachers?
   4. Do heads issue job descriptions, or do they make everyone, at every level, feel
        part of a mission to improve the life chances of children?
   5. Do heads have a tendency to think that the way to put things right is to do
        more of what hasn’t worked up to now?

And finally...
Parents are being forced to pawn Rolex watches and sports cars to raise the money
they need for private school fees. High-end pawnbrokers have reported a surge in
business from professionals needing quick money to get them through the credit
crunch. Diamond rings, designer watches and even an Aston Martin have been used
as collateral to raise money.

Included in The TES Magazine
Bringing up baby Parenting role-play in class and at home p12
Maths and music Special report p25
Under control The art of behaviour management p42

				
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posted:5/18/2012
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