To keep our clients up to speed and inform all the programmes we work on, we make sure to keep our beady eyes on what’s going on in the education sector. Here are five news stories that reflect current conversations going on in education right now.
Education and the general election
Whenever an election is called education becomes a political flashpoint. Theresa May’s grammar school scheme continues to be widely unpopular amongst the teaching community, particularly as she’s argued that they will improve social mobility, but how much data is there to really back up this claim? According to TES, should the conservative party retain power, they would gain ‘a mandate to push through the prime minister’s flagship domestic policy in the face of likely opposition in the House of Lords.’
Another focal point is (and no big surprises here!): school funding. Over the last few months the education press has been full of alarming pieces about the sector having to find a casual £3 billion of savings by 2019-20. Due to the snap election, the new national funding formula is likely to be pushed back until April 2019. There has been a mixed reception to this news. Budget cuts in schools have forced headteachers to make unusual and difficult decisions to try and plug the deficit, such as one in six schools admit asking parents for money due to budget cuts, schools considering shutting early to save on teaching costs and mental health services suffering.
Have you become super sensitive to spotting ‘fake news’? The internet has infiltrated every aspect of students’ lives – from socialising to education. Access to the internet comes with great rewards, but also carries significant emotional and personal risks. To assess these dangers the House of Lords commissioned a report which suggest that students need lessons about online responsibilities, risks and acceptable behaviour, as well as how to spot this apparent propagation of deliberate misinformation. This is alongside a pretty damning report written from the Children's Commissioner for England, Ann Longfield, who says that ‘children are being left to fend for themselves online.’
The effect of the internet on young people’s mental health is unclear, though an article in TES paints a bleak picture claiming that half of British pupils are 'scared to use the internet'. However, former government mental health tsar, Natasha Devon, has argued that we'll probably find that social media is a dead-end and that we must accept the realities of the internet ‘to help ourselves and the young people in our care navigate it successfully and safely.’
Confusion over new GCSE exams
As exam season rolls around there is an undercurrent of confusion and anger, and that’s just the teachers. The already difficult time period has been made harder for students and teachers because of the lack of clarity from the government regarding the new numerical GCSE grading system. The changes are a by-product of Michael Gove’s curriculum reforms and continue to cause major upset. Is 5 considered a good pass, or is it a strong pass? We’re still figuring it out… The changes have caused outrage for a number of reasons, including:
Plus, we’re still in the dark about what effect these reforms will have on attainment and A-level selection choices. Particularly as, the chief analyst at the Department for Education has estimated that just two pupils in England are likely to get all top grades in the new GCSEs being phased in from this summer. Watch this space!
Going the extra mile
The educational news can sometimes be a gloomy place, so it’s amazing to hear about schools and teachers who go the extra mile! A school in Sheffield has transformed a vandalised building into a haven for young people and parents. In Arbourthorne, an estimated 25 out of every 30 families live in relative poverty. Thanks to headteacher Vanessa Langley, students now have a community space where they can relax and learn valuable life lessons, including cleaning and cooking. It features a living room filled with books, a bedroom complete with cuddly toys and a school favourite; the Sensory Room, a space where students and teachers can relax with mood lighting and, among other things, a bubble machine.
Bringing out the best in students
From aromatherapy to dance, we’ve been hearing about some creative ways schools are boosting their students’ attainment. Studies have shown that pupils working in a room with the aroma of rosemary achieved 5% to 7% better results in memory tests. For any schools where aromatherapy isn’t quite for you, why not try a dance party? A primary school in Ireland has been trialling a Friday lunchtime outdoor disco, where students can let of steam and the whole school can socialise together, increasing community cohesion. Having read about the success of the disco, I’m thinking Friday evenings at Hopscotch may never be the same again!