Education insights: United against bullying and the debate over GCSE grades continues

This week sees the welcome return of Anti-Bullying Week 2020 which last year saw 75% of schools in England take part*. Below we round up this week’s education news which highlights the extent of bullying during lockdown, a shake up of how university places are awarded and the continued call for GCSEs to be axed in summer 2021.

One in three report being bullied since Covid outbreak

With this week’s Anti-Bullying Week focusing on a message of ‘United Against Bullying’, a report highlights the extent to which bullying has been impacted by the Covid outbreak. A poll of 2,000 11 to 16-year-olds found that one in five children said they were on the receiving end of bullying behaviour once a week or more. Of those who reported being bullied recently, 38% said it had taken place online, a rise from 29% in a pre-Covid survey conducted in 2019. There was a similar rise in reports of bullying in the community: with 16% of children who experienced bullying saying it had happened in their community, compared to 9% last year. Whilst disheartening to learn that incidents of bullying have shifted from a school environment to online and in the community, there’s some reassurance knowing that 80% of respondents believe that the prevalence of bullying cases can be reduced over time if people work together. 

Students: Places to be awarded using actual grades

Universities in England are to switch to offering degree places based on actual grades rather than predicted ones. Gavin Williamson told the BBC Education Editor that the present system held bright but disadvantaged pupils back. He said he wanted all students to be able to choose the best university they can go to once they know their grades. Universities had just backed such a change following a review. Time will tell as to whether the change will benefit academically high achieving pupils from poorer areas whose predicted grades are often under-predicted.

Teaching leaders call for GCSEs to be axed next year

GCSE exams should be scrapped next year and replaced by school-based assessments, leading figures in education have said. Some SLT suggest that school-assessed grades should be used for GCSEs and that A-levels should have less content or fewer papers. With Wales already making the decision to scrap traditional exams, it will be interesting to see if England follows suit. One outcome that seems certain is assessment of students’ performance will look very different in 2021. 

School LGBT bullying projects axed by government

Government-backed projects tackling bullying of LGBT students in England's schools have had their funding pulled. The Government Equalities Office had funded several well-received programmes costing at least £4m, which specifically targeted LGBT bullying, since 2014. But the BBC has learned that the government quietly ended its funding of LGBT anti-bullying initiatives last March. With homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language still used in schools, it will be interesting to see whether the government offer alternative plans to challenge LGBT+ bullying rather than axing the projects outright.

Half of schools in England drop nativity plays because of Covid

A survey has revealed that some schools are filming plays outdoors or opting for virtual performances. A small minority – less than 5% – might yet hold live, socially distanced activities, according to responses to a survey by the Teacher Tapp app, but for many a whole world of film production is opening up. Teachers are positive the disruption to Nativity will encourage everyone involved to think in new ways, and only time will tell as to how schools achieve some form of festive respite after a challenging term.


About the author

Richard Brown

Richard's clients include Barclays, Shell, Vodafone and Kellogg's. Richard graduated from the University of St Andrews with a 2:1 MA Honours in English and Modern History. Having guided hundreds of young people through the National Citizen Service, Richard joined Hopscotch in 2018 to develop education programmes that bolster the skills of young people both inside and outside of the classroom.

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