Education News Weekly – 16th April, 2017
Teacher discrimination, toddler mental health and why timetabling could be the key to school success.
The NASUWT teaching union highlighted the problems with mental health among young people, reporting symptoms in pupils as young as 4. Virtually every single one of 2,000 respondents said they’ve encountered pupils with mental health difficulties, often saying this results in isolation and difficulty concentrating. The survey found:
- 98% of teachers said they had come into contact with pupils who were experiencing mental health issues.
- They were most likely to be teenagers, with more than half of teachers saying they had seen issues in 14 to 16-year-olds.
- But nearly a fifth (18%) of those surveyed by the union said they had been in contact with four to seven-year-olds showing mental health issues while more than a third (35%) had seen problems in youngsters aged seven to 11.
- Nine in 10 said they had experienced a pupil of any age suffering from anxiety and panic attacks
- 79% were aware of a pupil suffering from depression
- 64% knew of a youngster who was self-harming.
- 49% were aware of children with eating disorders, and 47% knew about a youngster with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Pressure of exams and testing, family problems such as ill health or a break-up and social media were all seen as having an impact on mental health. Teachers seemed to agree there’s been a massive increase in these difficulties among pupils over the last 5-10 years, despite the DfE’s insistence that mental health is a priority, and schools in England are funded at record levels and that its investment will rise as pupil numbers rise.
BME teachers face regular discrimination at work – Independent
Teachers from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds face an “invisible glass ceiling” that limits them from being taken seriously for senior staff jobs, new figures suggest.
A survey of 1,027 BME teachers for the NUT by the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, revealed concerns they were being given projects rooted in stereotypes, and often given classes with the most challenging behaviour, rather than encouraged to take part in wider teaching roles. It also found:
- 32% of male and 27% of female teachers did not feel staff were comfortable talking about race or sexism.
- Respondents said structural barriers – including assumptions about capability based on racial and ethnic stereotypes – were everyday experiences for BME teachers
- BME teachers spoke specifically about an invisible glass ceiling and a widespread perception among senior leadership teams that BME teachers “have a certain level and don’t go beyond it”.
- Only 10% of secondary school classroom teachers are of BME origin, compared to more than a quarter of secondary school pupils
- Only 7% of primary classroom teachers are of BME origin, compared to just under 30% of pupils being from BME backgrounds.
- Under 4% of head teachers in both primary and secondary schools are of BME origin.
Respondents also spoke about racist microaggressions, largely white senior management teams, and the concern that thousands of BME students will learn in an environment lacking BME role models. This has led to BME teachers feeling “undervalued, isolated and disillusioned with their careers,” according to the Runnymede Trust.
Compensation payments to teachers have soared in the last year, reaching the tens of millions of pounds, following a surge in physical attacks on staff by pupils, with industry leaders blaming budget cuts that have left teachers without adequate classroom support. One union alone secured £28 million in compensation, with common assaults including punches, headbutts, broken bones, bullying and harassment and psychological as well as physical damage. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said cuts to support staff were inevitably leaving teachers more isolated and vulnerable in difficult and sometimes violent situations, and less able to do their job. As many as 80% of secondary school headteachers polled by the Sutton Trust said their school has had to cut back on teaching staff or teaching assistants, while analysis of English council spending on local services from 2010-11 to 2014-15 showed a 25%.
However, The Independent also reports that Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell became the first politician to speak at the annual NUT (National Union of Teachers) conference in 15 years, condeming the government’s cuts to education, which he argues have not been so damaging since the 1970s.
Education secretary Justine Greening has emphasised the need for grammar schools to give priority to poorer pupils, a policy that will be at the heart of her vision for a “stronger, fairer” country following the UK’s split from the European Union. Greening announced: “I welcome that many grammar schools are now changing their admissions code to give a priority of places to these [disadvantaged] children – I want all of them to follow this example”. However, the Guardian reports that DfE’s own recent data suggests children from wealthier families are more likely than not to earn places at selective schools. Analysts from the Education Policy Institute said: “Grammar schools are dominated by the most affluent, squeezing out the poorest. An expansion in selection is unlikely to benefit [ordinary working families] in the way that the government suggests.”
Millions of current and students in England and Wales will face a sharp increase in interest rates on tuition fees and maintenance loans. The interest rates (unlike graduate wages) are linked to inflation – and are set to rise by about a third from 4.6% to up to 6.1%. The increase is occurring in Autumn, as tuition fees also rise to £9,250, and the DfE continues to try and sell off student loan debt to private investors. The Intergenerational Foundation think tank has concluded that repayments could total as much as £54,000 with all factors taken into account. The debt owed by students for tuition and maintenance loans has continued to climb, with £34 billion in 2011 rising to £76 billion last year. National Union of Students (NUS) president Malia Bouattia has criticised the move, saying it will disadvantage students for years to come. The Independent has linked the increase to Brexit, which sparked a sharp increase to interest rates.
Time to re-arrange the timetable? – Telegraph
A ten-year study by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, has found that students are better at repetitive tasks and problem-solving in the morning, and therefore do better in maths. However, history classes, which require “perpetual-restructuring tasks”, achieved better results in the afternoon.
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.