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					The TES
26.09.08

News summary

Watchdog savages testing regime (lead story)
A new report by The National Audit Office (NAO) report has said there is ‘no
quantified evidence’ that league tables or similar schemes help to improve school
performance. It warns against setting targets for schools based on raw scores, saying it
is fairer to judge them on the value they add to pupils’ education. The findings
undermine the Government’s National Challenge, which targets secondaries falling
below the School Secretary’s benchmark of 30% of pupils passing five good GCSEs.
Gordon Brown promoted the scheme in his speech to the Labour conference this
week, saying he would guarantee parents a ‘fundamental right’ to have their children
taught in schools with good results.
The audit office report was based on research, interviews with officials involved in
public sector programmes, and a review of measures designed to raise results,
including league tables and placing schools in ‘special measures’. It suggests that
contextual value added results are a better measure because they take account of
factors beyond teachers’ control. The DCSF welcomed the audit office report as it
was ‘entirely consistent with our approach to improving school performance’.

Inquiry blight tackled (p4)
Police inquiries into teachers facing allegations could be speeded up to avoid
unnecessary damage to their careers. Jim Knight, schools minister, told a Labour
party conference fringe meeting this week, ‘Too often police investigations take so
long that it blights someone's career. We have been working with the Association of
Chief Police Officers to try and get that side of things resolved quickly. Any internal
procedures can then be resolved afterwards.’

A gift at TES show (p4)
The National Association for Able Children in Education is to run seminars to help
teachers provide gifted learners with a challenging curriculum at the TES Education
Show next month. The sessions are among more than 60 being laid on by experts in
various fields - from the new early years and primary frameworks to developments in
science education and ICT. The show will be held on October 10th -11th at London's
Olympia. (www.teachingexhibitions.co.uk).

'Hammered' heads hit back at PM (p4)
Heads are furious about the Prime Minister's latest get-tough message to schools that
produce low GCSE results, after he warned them that they face the sack. Gordon
Brown used his Labour Party conference speech to ratchet up the pressure on
hundreds of secondaries that have been targeted by the National Challenge scheme for
failing to get 30% of their pupils to achieve five good GCSEs. The controversial
school improvement scheme was supposed to offer support to these schools, with
closure used only as a last resort. But Mr Brown's speech put the emphasis on
replacing leadership teams and closing schools. He also said that parents would play a
direct role in the process. ‘Our pledge today is that any parents whose local state
school falls below the expected standard will have the right to see that school
transformed under wholly new leadership, or closed and new school places provided,’
he said. John Dunford, general secretary of the ASCL, said, ‘Schools have never been
turned around by threats. National Challenge schools need a period of sustained
support and confidence building.’
Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, used his speech to the conference to emphasise the
positive aspects of the National Challenge scheme. He revealed the first three
National Challenge Trusts, which will each get up to £1 million to help schools
collaborate to improve standards. They will be in Southend in Essex, North Yorkshire
and Hull. But Mr Balls faced criticism from conference delegates over the
Government's attempts to restrict public sector pay rises and its use of the private
sector in education.

Schools may run their own satisfaction surveys (p4)
Plans to collect data from schools on teenage pregnancy, obesity and drug abuse could
be ditched in favour of schools conducting their own pupil and parent surveys.
Ministers said this week that they would consider a self-evaluation approach in light
of fears that schools could be ranked in league tables according to pupil wellbeing
issues they could control. Ministers also revealed they were interested in the balance
scorecard approach to school accountability, which is being touted as a fairer
alternative to league tables. The news came at a Labour party conference fringe
meeting after teachers' leaders criticised the wellbeing plans.

Credit crunch cools support for strike (p7)
Public sympathy for a strike will be ‘non-existent’ given the credit crunch, a heads’
leader has said. John Dunford, general secretary of the ASCL, made the comments
just 10 days before the NUT is to ballot 250,000 members on strike action over the
pay deal. The ballot lasts from October 6th to November 3rd. Rising fuel bills and
mortgages could also mean that some teachers cannot afford to strike this time.
Dave Harvey, NUT executive member for outer London, said the union did not want
to single out teachers as a ‘special case’ - pay was an issue for 5 million public sector
workers. ‘The Government spent more bailing out Northern Rock than the entire
teachers’ pay bill,’ he added. The NUT is expected to ballot members, then consult
locally on action, from a one-day national walkout to local co-ordinated action and
stop-work meetings.

Test obsession holds back the UK (p14)
Reducing the focus on tests and targets could help break the close link between class
and school results in the UK and improve the country’s education system, according
to a working paper for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD). The report was written by Anne-Marie Brook, who is a senior economist -
rather than an education expert - in the OECD’s economics department. The main
points are summarised below:
Key points for the UK
     Reduce focus on testing and targets.
     Put more focus on supporting weak pupils and schools, and making all schools
        good.
     A ‘renewed sense of urgency, together with new approaches’ to tackle the
        UK’s relative underperformance in literacy and numeracy.
     Create incentives for good teachers to teach in poor schools.
      Compulsory education up to 18 may not work. May be worth just making it
       compulsory for those without minimum results.
      More progressive systems for funding, including a Chilean-style voucher
       system where poorer families receive more money for their children’s
       education.
      When A-levels and diplomas are reviewed in 2013, give serious consideration
       to moving towards a unified qualifications system, similar to that suggested by
       Sir Mike Tomlinson in his 2004 report on the subject.

Geography - Free field trip scheme launched (p19)
A scheme to promote field trips for geography teachers and students who may
otherwise miss out has been launched by the Royal Geographical Society. The
Learning and Leading programme will pay for 16 A-level students and 16 geography
teachers to attend separate week-long fieldwork summer schools every year for the
next six years. The courses are aimed at helping GCSE and A-level teachers who feel
they need more training in managing field trips, and students who have missed out
because they cannot afford them. The location of the summer school will change each
year and the bursaries will cover all costs. Details and application forms for next year
will be available early next term at www.rgs.org/OurWork/LandL.

Heads vulnerable over health and safety pitfalls (p22)
Some headteachers are under so much pressure to improve exam results and juggle
budgets that they may be compromising health and safety regulations in their school
buildings, the National Governors’ Association (NGA) has said. Phil Revell, the chief
executive, feared that ‘more than a tiny minority’ were breaking the law to save
money or because they were distracted by political pressures. Many secondaries,
embracing the concept of ‘distributed leadership’, delegate health and safety matters
to a bursar or similar, but the head is still ultimately responsible. The NGA’s
comments came as David Dibb, head of Westonzoyland Primary in Somerset,
appeared in court accused of failing to employ a licensed company to remove asbestos
from his school. It is believed to be only the second time an individual head has been
taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive over asbestos. Although cases of
heads being taken to court are rare, experts say vagueness in the law leaves heads
open to prosecution.
Richard Bird, legal advisor to the ASCL said the duty of care to visitors, employees
and pupils came down to the ‘owner, occupier or manager’ of the premises. In other
words, the head and local authority, and potentially the governors, could be found
liable if a visitor fell down a hole in the playground or slipped on a wet floor. Simon
Longbottom, head of the Health and Safety Executive’s education sector team, said,
‘Increasing local management of schools means that some heads take on additional
responsibilities for building maintenance and construction. Heads need to ensure there
is a competent project manager and close liaison with contractors so that additional
risks to staff and pupils are properly controlled.’
(www.hse.gov.uk/services/education).

5 things to think about this week (p39)
    1. Safeguard sensitive data
       Becta has a website page on ‘Data handling security guidance for schools’
       which will soon be supplemented by good practice guides.
       (www.Becta.org.uk)
   2. Effective response procedures
      How well equipped are you, emotionally and mentally, for when things
      suddenly go pear-shaped? See ‘Critical Incidents: effective responses and the
      factors behind them’, a National College for School Leadership research
      report (www.ncsl.org.uk)
   3. Sing your school’s praises
      Entries for the BBC’s Songs of Praise School Choirs of the Year competition
      2009 close on October 27th (www.bbc.co.uk/songsofpraise)
   4. Test the water with cadetships
      Debbie Baldie, assistant manager of the P&O cadet programme, says there is a
      shortage of engineering cadets. Contact the Merchant Navy Training Board,
      (www.mntb.org.uk)
   5. Get away on a limited budget
      Review the costs of the forthcoming year’s planned trips and residential
      breaks, especially totals for families with more than one child.


And finally...
Congratulations to all schools who have been successfully accredited with the 2008
DCSF International School Award. Locally, these include The Appleton School,
Plume School, Hertfordshire and Essex High School, Sweyne Park School and
Woodlands School. A full list is published in the centre pages of this week’s TES.


Included in The TES Magazine
Past it at 45? How age discrimination can slow down your career p12
Brain and behaviour excessive TV viewing p20
Dealing with dyspraxia p38

				
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