Education News Weekly – 27th January, 2017
Compulsory sex education, voluntary grammar school funding and the plight of young people in 2017.
The funding crisis in British education has now got to such a critical point that Grammar schools may need to ask parents for voluntary funding, to the tune of £40 a month. While not an excessive amount of money, it adds serious weight to the argument that Grammar schools are likely to benefit wealthier families more than disadvantaged ones, and that the call to open new ones is mistaken. The Grammar School Heads’ Association (GSHA) has said that as a result of the government’s new funding formula, intended to reallocate money from better funded to poorer areas, 103 grammar schools are set to lose money, while only 60 gain.
Tim Gartside, head of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and a spokesman for the GSHA, said: “What we’re looking at here is funding which is fundamentally going to change the nature of grammar schools.”
A separate report from The Telegraph has detailed how Grammar schools have had to drop subjects, make staff redundancies and even consider closing entirely, as a result of the new funding formula.
Despite the funding crisis plaguing British education, the government have opted to take back the £384 million originally earmarked for the plan to make all schools become academies. The Department for Education revealed that once the Academies plan was abandoned, the Treasury reclaimed most of the money, saying it was appropriate given the project did not proceed. Head teachers across the country have protested, given that many are already facing staff cuts, offering fewer subjects, reducing extra-curricular activities and even considering shorter days, or a four-day week. The DfE claims schools are receiving record funding, but the experience of those working in schools is very different, with teachers suffering and special educational needs and disability students being particularly badly hit. Despite Justine Greening’s claim it is at record levels, funding has failed to keep up with inflation, rising costs and pupil demand. Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said: “It is astonishing that the Treasury is now clawing money back from the education budget at the same time as schools spending is being drastically cut.”
Sex education could become compulsory in schools – Telegraph
A minister has suggested sex and relationship education (SRE) could become compulsory in order to protect children. Children are being left ill-equipped to face the risks of exposure to online pornography, sexting and cyber-bullying. The government has faced cross-party pressure to make compulsory, to give young people access to “effective, factually accurate, age appropriate, sex and relationship education,” according to education minister Caroline Dinenage, with education secretary Justine Greening also present. The comments came as figures released by the charity Plan International UK found that more than eight in 10 Britons support SRE being compulsory in all schools – private and state.
A separate report published by the British Humanist Association reveals that SRE is only mentioned in 1% of Ofsted reports, suggesting it’s not regarded as a curriculum priority, and the quality of teaching faces less scrutiny.
The latest Ucas statistics studying the admissions tendencies of 133 providers of higher education have revealed some grimly predictable trends, especially highlighting social inequality. The most selective universities around the country were almost six times as likely to take students from advantaged as opposed to disadvantaged backgrounds – and this was particularly stark at Oxbridge (13-16 times more likely). Meanwhile, black students were offered a lower proportion of places than expected at the more selective universities, compared to students with comparable grades and course choices. However, Dr Wendy Piatt, Russell Group director general, pointed out the data doesn’t include many relevant factors (personal statement, interview, references, CV, work experience etc): “The root causes of under-representation are complex and a wide range of factors need to be taken into account to fully understand them”.
Dr Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, said: “[The data] reinforces the access challenge that our most selective universities face…It is vital that we all – universities, schools and those organising outreach programmes – redouble our efforts to narrow these unacceptable gaps.”
Perhaps it is to do with Trumpism, Brexit or perhaps it is the same adolescent anxiety that has plagued generations of teenagers – amped up by the all-consuming hystericism of social media – but a recent poll has found that now is a terrible time to be young. Levels of happiness and confidence are plummeting, amid concerns that almost half of young people have emotional and mental health issues that leave them unable to focus. The poll of over 2,200 young people (16-25) show more than one in six believe they may never amount to anything however hard they try – and more than a quarter feel they have no control over their lives.
The statistics are damning, with young people losing faith in themselves, their job prospects and their likelihood of reaching the traditional financial goals. Dame Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust who conducted the poll, said: “It’s shocking how many feel so desperate about their situation…This report paints a deeply concerning picture of a generation who feel their ability to shape their own future is slipping away from them”. So next time you’re dealing with a moody teenager, remember they’re part of a generation apparently in existential crisis.
Michaela Community School in Brent is looking for a keen disciplinarian to take on the new role. The advert states: “This role is for someone who believes children need clear, firm discipline. This role is for someone who believes tough love is what children need to become better people and grow into responsible young adults… [It’s not suited] to someone who wants to be every child’s best friend”
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.