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The TES

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									The TES
15/2/08

News summary

Plan to measure creativity (lead story)
The Government is investigating ways to measure creativity to ensure children are
proficient in areas that are not appraised by existing tests, such as imaginative
thinking. Assessments would go beyond creative subjects such as art and music, with
teachers expected to look at how pupils adopt a creative approach across the
curriculum. Qualities likely to be monitored under an assessment of creativity include
taking risks, questioning and challenging, resilience, communication and teamwork.
Ministers revealed their plans in a response to a Commons select committee report on
Creative Partnerships, the government-funded body that brings in artists, musicians,
theatre directors and other creative professionals to work in 2,200 English schools
each year. A spokesman for the QCA said it recognised that assessment of creativity
was an area that should be looked into, and that it was using a report on art and design
as a starting point. Paul Collard, Creative Partnerships’ national director, said, ‘These
skills can only be assessed by people on the spot; people who have known the
children for a period of time.’ He said Ofsted inspections could be used to verify
assessments, but warned that using scores for league tables could distort the process.
This week Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, announced plans to work towards giving
all pupils five hours of ‘cultural’ activities a week. The ‘cultural offer’ for pupils will
be piloted in 10 local authorities in England. They will receive total funding of £25
million over three years.

Pass mark lowered for pilot tests (p3)
The standard required to do well in the new single level tests is too be lowered. The
announcement comes after pupils performed badly in the first round of pilots in
December, although Whitehall officials said the decision to change the format was
made before the tests were sat. Initially, it was envisaged that pupils would have to
demonstrate they were working securely at a national curriculum level for them to be
awarded that level. However, in the next round in June pupils will only have to
demonstrate that they have first reached that level. The DCSF said the decision
would align the standard of the single-level tests with the Sats.
The Government has yet to release the results of the December tests after saying it
had uncovered ‘unexpected patterns’ in the scores.

All pupils will be just a number now (p4)
Work has started on giving every pupil aged 13 and over a unique learner number,
allowing teachers and future employers to check their qualifications on an online
database. The system will use data collected from last year’s school census. The
learner number will remain for life, unlike the unique pupil number, introduced in
1999, which is deleted when young people leave compulsory education. The National
Union of Students is concerned that the scheme could prove the basis for a national
ID card, but this has been dismissed by the LSC. The database is due to be fully
comprehensive by 2010.
Pay rise to promote excellence (p6)
Classroom teachers could earn almost £54,000 under plans to change the salary
structure of the ‘excellent teacher’ grade. The status was introduced in April 2006,
but new figures show that only 37 people have qualified for the grade, well below
government estimates of 5,000 or the first year. Some have blamed the fixed salary of
£35,874 but a government commissioned survey shows that a quarter of respondents
said it was the name that put them off. Another factor is that the role of the Advanced
skills teacher is seen as more attractive. Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has now
accepted recommendations by the Teachers’ Review Body to pay excellent teachers
on a scale of £37,672 to £48,437, rising to £53,819 in inner London, from September.
Schools will be given the power to decide exact amounts based on teachers’
experience.

Call for a wider view of gifted and talented pupils (p6)
Schools are being urged to look beyond the academically gifted in a drive to expand
the gifted and talented programme. Latest government figures show that 31% of
schools do not participate. Ann Bridgland, a gifted and talented expert, told the TES,
‘Some schools get their knickers in a twist and say we haven’t got any [gifted and
talented pupils]. But all schools have kids with some kind of gift or talent. You can
always find pupils with some ‘wow factor’ about them. They might be a very good
monitor or brilliant at showing people around the school.’ Officials running the
scheme say that some schools are discriminating against low-income families and
overlooking ethnic minorities. They are also calling for parents to push their children
forward if they think they are talented.

Confidence in A-levels at five-year high (p8)
A survey commissioned by the QCA for its annual report has revealed that 59% of A-
level teachers have confidence in A-level marking, with 10% undecided. Of the 31%
who disagreed, a quarter mentioned a lack of good examiners, with 22% agreeing
with the statement ‘numerous requests for re-marks have shown up errors.’ At GCSE,
23% lacked confidence in the accuracy of marking, with 67% saying they were
confident. Some 31% said marking quality had deteriorated in the past 2 years. A
third of teachers surveyed said they could only be sure that GCSE and A-level papers
had been marked accurately after requesting checks or re-marks from the board.

Rise in pupils taking extra time to complete key exams (p8)
The number of pupils allowed extra time in their GCSE and A-level exams has
doubled in the past 2 years. The QCA has revealed that 69,226 candidates were given
more time in 2007, compared with 35,319 in 2005. Professor Alan Smithers of
Buckingham University, commenting on the possible reasons behind the rise, said,
‘One explanation is the exam results are very important to schools, and they are
taking advantage of every flexibility available to them.’
The QCA have also revealed a drop in the number of exam cheats, with 4,227 pupils
penalised this year, a fall of 11% on 2006. The most common offences were copying,
plagiarism and bringing unauthorised materials into the exam hall, often mobile
phones or crib sheets.

Got it tough? You could be right (p9)
Exam experts are to investigate whether some GCSEs and A- levels are harder than
others, as part of new moves to monitor the testing regime. A technical report setting
out methods by which standards in A-level physics, for example, could be compared
with languages, English literature and other subjects will be published next week.
Speaking at the QCA’s annual review, Isabel Nisbet, interim chief executive of the
new regulator to be known as Ofqual, would not say which subjects were the hardest
or reveal whether judgements on subject difficulty would be used in setting exam
grade boundaries. She said she would set up a public debate on subject difficulty in
the autumn.

Diplomatic relations (p12)
School and FE leaders are consolidating their strength by joining forces. The
National Association of Headteachers is merging with the Principals’ Professional
Council. Meanwhile, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is to share members’
services with the Association for College Management. The collaborations anticipate
the introduction of the first 14-19 diplomas in September, with schools and colleges
expected to work together.

Texts and internet fuel big rise in bullying (p16)
According to a study for Ofsted by Roger Morgan, the children’s rights director of
England, four out of ten school children are being victimised by cyberbullies.
Abusive texts and threatening messages on social networking sites such as MySpace
and Bebo are being used to harass children. The 319 young people questioned for the
study all live away from home in places including children’s homes, foster care and
boarding schools. But Dr Morgan said the findings should be read more widely and
were applicable to all people working with young people, including teachers.
Dr Morgan’s study follows a separate Ofsted report last November that found a third
of children were regularly bullied and that schools often struggled to deal with the
problem. Those results came from a nationwide survey of 111,000 children about
experiences of a wide range of issues including school, underage drinking and drugs.

Annual checks for schools not improving fast enough (p12)
Half the schools in England will receive Ofsted visits every year, even if they show no
evidence of failure, the chief inspector has proposed. In her plans, condemned by
headteachers this week, Christine Gilbert said that the ‘best’ schools would be left for
up to six years between visits and that parents would have more say in triggering
inspections.
Under the proposals, as many as half of all primary, secondary and special schools
would face being inspected every year if found to be ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’.
This would also include those judged to be delivering a ‘good’ education but which
are showing signs of slipping or ‘stagnating’. The best schools, on the other hand,
would be subjected to six-yearly inspections or ‘health checks’. The new
arrangements would also give parents and pupils greater powers to tackle schools
offering poor standards of education. Ms Gilbert said complaints made directly to an
Ofsted hotline, or through the local council, could initiate an investigation.
Ms Gilbert told heads at the National Academies conference in London last week, ‘If
you are a satisfactory or a coasting school, a deteriorating school, or a school in
difficulties, we will certainly be inspecting every three years, but probably more
regularly than that, and probably more intensively than that. We are thinking about
tailoring inspections much more.’
John Dunford, general secretary of the ASCL, said he did not understand how
increasing the frequency of inspections would lead to school improvement. ‘The
system is too much about pressure and not enough about support,’ he said. ‘What
these schools need is not more inspection but greater support, if they are expected to
improve. Currently, there is a complete lack of a strategic approach to doing this.’
A consultation paper outlining the plans and the future of inspections is due to be
published in April.

5 things to think about this week (p23)
    1. Who knows better: you or Ofsted?
       See the Ofsted section of the TES Staffroom forum for further discussion.
    2. Stepping down
       Do you and your colleagues know about phased retirement?
       (www.teacherspensions.co.uk)
    3. How secure are your sports clubs?
       See leaflet produced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,
       ‘Helping Keep Your Child Safe in Sport.’ (www.culture.gov.uk)
    4. Send ‘em off, Ref!
       Support the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ schools competition (www.srtrc.org)


And finally...
A mental health clinic on Spain’s Costa del Sol is offering courses dedicated to
British teachers after 180 visited it last year complaining of work-related stress.
Visitors to the Elite Clinic near Marbella enjoy the area’s hotels and sunshine as they
work through their problems with counsellors on courses involving cognitive
behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy. However, at £400 a course, the TES suggests
that heads might have trouble convincing governors to fund the treatment.

Included in The TES Magazine
The 45 minute warning Teachers take the trainee teachers’ tests p27
Brain and behaviour How to boost your memory p36
History and Geography Special report p56

								
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