A Video Guide To The School Performance Tables Website

The DfE has produced a brief video that advises how to use their school performance tables website for England. We thought you might find it useful so we have posted it here.

My visit to the well

…as I turned round it changed shape…

Yesterday we had just moved house and mum was getting a bit stressed. I was so bored I wanted to go on a adventure. I was walking along and I come across a old, crooked rusty old gate. As I opened the gate a black cat jumped on my head I screamed! I ran and ran but the cat just carried on following me. I then came across a boy I asked it name he didn’t asker. I was looking for a well then the boy suddenly spoke there is a well there I couldn’t see anything.

Charlotte Stones

As I turned around it changed shape!

…as I turned round it changed shape…

Strolling home from school, with my friends, suddenly we heard a loud beaming noise behind us. Freezing, we slowly turned aroud….we saw a strange emerald green creature. It was an alien about 50 feet tall. Shocked, our minds went blank, we didn’t know what to do. My friends ran for thier lives, but I was still in horrer. As I turened around it changed shape…it became a

It wasn’t my fault

It wasn’t my fault! I didn’t do it,I swear it wasn’t me! I did not break the window.I promise.I wish you would beleive me.I wasn’t even at school but I did hear about it. Somebody had thrown a marble at the window and it cracked it.The glass looked like a spider’s web, the parts that were left.My friend showed me a photograph of it when I came to school  and I also noticed that the gap in the window was blocked out.

Shannon

Maths Tutor Scunthorpe – Are Boys now reading as well as girls?

Boys now reading as well as girls, study suggests- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17159794

A study called What Kids Are Reading has been published today that suggests there is no longer a reading ability gap between boys and girls. As a tutoring centre our aim is to see every student achieve their potential and we would welcome this news if we could be certain that this announcement matched what was really happening with children’s reading skills.  There are however, a number of factors that would cause us to doubt that this report paints an accurate picture of the true situation in literacy in English schools today.

Firstly, the BBC News article informs us that the study focussed on schools who used specialised software to direct children to age appropriate books. This raises our first cause for uncertainty.  All educational professionals know that an important standard measurement for a child’s reading abilities is a comparison of their “reading age” with their chronological age. If a child’s reading age is greater than their chronological age then there is no cause for concern but if the opposite is true then the student needs help to catch up with their reading skills. The greater the gap between a child’s chronological age and their reading age where their reading age is behind their real age the greater the cause for concern. We don’t have access to the software or the original data used to compile the study but if the software was simply directing the children to books that were appropriate for their real age then the results are flawed because a child’s chronological age cannot be guaranteed to be an indication of their reading age.

Secondly, the results don’t match with our own experience. At Kip McGrath Scunthorpe out of all the students currently enrolled for tuition in catch up reading 85% are boys. This would suggest that the reality is at odds with both the study’s findings and the inference drawn from the results by the National Literacy Trust’s Jonathan Douglas who appears to attribute the good news to the DfE’s policy of emphasising the use of synthetic phonics to teach children to read.

This brings us to our third issue with these findings. Since coming to power the coalition government has over-emphasised the use of phonics to teach children to read at the expense of other literacy teaching methods. Phonics does have a valid place within the reading curriculum and is a good place to start when learning to read but it is just one of a range of methods that we employ when reading. In order to read we need to use context too. For example, we could have a tear in our trousers that will bring a tear to our eye.  We must also consider the fact that there are hundreds of words to which the rules of phonetics don’t apply because English is an irregular language. We must learn to recognise these words when we see them and they are called sight words. Yellow, for example is derived from an Old English word geolu which itself stems from the early Germanic gelwaz and dates back to the 8th Century. English is a beautifully rich language and full of words inherited from Greek, Latin, Norse, Norman, a variety of Indian dialects etc; which is why it is so irregular. But the very thing that gives it such beauty and variety is what makes it hard to learn.

When I work in my garden I will use a variety of tools. If I want to trim the smaller plants I might use a pair of garden shears but if I need to cut the lawn I’ll get the lawnmower out.  If I tried to cut the grass with the shears it would be a long, laborious process; I would soon get very frustrated and give up in disgust because it was so hard and there was no pleasure in my work. As a result I would not be rewarded with a beautiful garden to enjoy during the summer. And this is exactly what it is like for children who are taught to read using only phonics and not shown any other reading method. They get upset because reading becomes a slow, laborious task. Consequently, they become demotivated and give up. In reading when children have all the right tools at their disposal a whole world of learning and reading for pleasure can be at their fingertips as it enables them to both read for enjoyment and allows them greater access to the curriculum as a whole.

At Kip McGrath Scunthorpe we see all too many children who are behind in their reading skills because they have never moved on from using phonics and are still sounding out words phonetically long after they should be employing a variety of methods and fluently reading age appropriate words and books.  The first thing we do when parents bring their son or daughter to us with concerns about their child’s reading is carry out a free assessment in order to establish what gaps they have in their reading skills.  We then put together an individual programme designed specifically for their educational needs. This programme will include a variety of paper and computer-based activities along with reading CDs if appropriate.  The tutoring takes place at our Education Centre and the tuition methods and computer programs have been designed and continually developed by Kip McGrath over nearly forty years to provide the students with all the skills they need to read efficiently and fluently. Kip McGrath has helped millions of children wordwide and at Kip McGrath Scunthorpe we have enabled hundreds of children in the area to achieve their educational potential.

So if you have any concerns about your child’s reading please either visit our website for more information or call us now on 01724 853935 to book a free assessment.

Maths Tutors Scunthorpe – In Case You Missed It: This Weeks Education News

Starting from this Saturday (25th February 2012) we will be publishing a weekly round up of the weeks UK education news from a variety of news sources. So you needn’t worry if you don’t have time to scour the internet for all the latest news as this service will provide you with links to the most topical articles in one place.

FOR PROFIT FIRMS AND STATE SCHOOLS

THE GUARDIAN – Let for-profit firms transform weak state schools, urges former headteacher

Trevor Averre-Beeson, education director at Lilac Sky Schools (the UK’s largest for profit education firm) advocates a greater role for his and other for profit companies in our education system, a view with which the DfE agrees. But not everybody is of the same opinion and according to some reports their ablity to transform failing schools is not guaranteed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/feb/19/for-profit-firms-state-schools?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

NEW STATESMAN – The case against for-profit schools                   

A New Statesman article putting forward what it believes to be a compelling case against for profit companies taking over state maintained schools.

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/02/profit-schools-providers

ACADEMIES

BBC RADIO 4 – The Report

A report into the apparently unorthodoox methods being employed by Michael Gove and the DfE to convert schools into academies against their will.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01by8nr/The_Report_Tackling_Poorly_Performing_Primaries/

RAISING EXAM STANDARDS

THE TELEGRAPH – More teenagers will fail A-levels and GCSEs as exam system toughened up, warns Michael Gove

The Government announces plans to make schools based qualifications tougher but warns that raising the standards will come at a price.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9097580/More-teenagers-will-fail-A-levels-and-GCSEs-as-exam-system-toughened-up-warns-Michael-Gove.html

THE GUARDIAN – Exam boards ordered to tighten up four GCSEs

The exams regulator Ofqual has announced changes to some of the EBacc GCSEs to ensure students gain a broader understanding of the subjects.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/feb/24/exam-boards-tighten-four-gcses

OTHER NEWS

THE GUARDIAN – Gove to crack down on term-time holidays

A leaked report this week revealed unconfirmed plans by Michael Gove to impose tougher penalties on parents who take their children out of school during term time as well as tougher fines for truancy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/feb/19/gove-crack-down-term-holidays?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

BBC NEWS – Special educational needs: MPs shocked by teens’ plight

A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee is badly failing special educational needs school leavers and blighting their life chances.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17131686

DAILY MAIL – One in seven Cambridge students ‘has sold drugs to help pay their way through university

A worrying report into the increasing prevalance of drug use and drug selling amongst UK undergraduates.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2106250/One-seven-Cambridge-students-sold-drugs-help-pay-way-university.html

Maths Tutors Scunthorpe – Do Academies Work?

There has been much concern raised, from a wide variety of quarters, in recent months about the DfE’s headlong rush to convert as many state maintained schools as possible to academy status. The BBC Q&A on academies http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13274090 explores the expansion of academies under the Coalition Government.

The most important question that surely needs to be asked is whether the academy model improves attainment for the students attending the converted school. To date much of the data produced to assess the efficay of academies on this basis are not convincing. According to the National Audit Office report into academies in September 2010 academies were a long way from matching the national average for the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A* – C grade GCSEs or equivalent particularly when English and Maths were included. They were however, asssessed as making good progress against comparable maintained schools, both in absolute attainment and relative to prior attainment.  Furthermore it was judged that the overall performance trend masked  “wide variation between individual academies with some performing exceptionally well and others making little progress”. The NAO were unable to produce a full explanation whether in regard to relative local deprivation or pupil’s prior attainment.

The same report also testifies that for later academies entries for GCSEs decreased more rapidly than other schools between 2006-07 and 2008-09. This was part of a general trend for including an increasing number of GCSE equivalent subjects on the school curriculum. But for later academies the proportion of entries to GCSE equivalents in 2008-09 was 7% higher than earlier academies and 10% higher than maintained schools. This would suggest that the primary reason for any progress achieved has been the exponential growth in vocational courses recently discredited by Michael Gove and many of which are now to be removed from the secondary education system. The Anti Academies Alliance goes even further in its criticism of the lack of educational improvements in academies when it drills into the Ebacc results and removes what it classes as the government’s ideological spin. Only 1 in 33 pupils in academies achieved this benchmark qualification even though most of their students are not disadvantaged. The national average number of students who got 5 A-Cs achieving an EBacc was 33% whilst it was just 12% in academies. Worse still this figure drops to a dreadful 8% once you strip out academies that were formerly independent, grammar or high achieving schools. If you remove grammar and other selective schools from the equation approximately 80% of academies saw 5% or fewer students achieving an EBacc. The inference therefore, is that by the Government’s own acadamic standards academies don’t work.

Mossbourne Academy in Hackney has been held up as an exemplar for the potemtial success of academies in turning failing schools in deprived areas around but according to those in the know former head of Mossbourne Sir Michael Wilshaw previously achieved the same spectacular results at St. Bonaventures in Newham without the multimillion pound investment from a sponsor, brand new buildings and all the structural upheavals that accompany conversion to academy status.

Aside from the academic aspects are academies financially sustainable? According to the NAO report as of March 2010 at least 58% of academies had received none of their pledged funding from sponsors. By January 2011 the Public Accounts Committee reported that:

The Department has failed to collect all the financial contributions due from sponsors. The status of some of these contributions remains unclear as payment schedules are abandoned, and now that future sponsors have no such obligations. The Department should clarify the status and recoverability of these outstandingdebts, negotiate clear and realistic payment schedules with the relevant sponsors, and monitor repayment.

In addition there were concerns about a number of academies failing to follow the guidance of the Academies Financial Handbook. There were also serious concerns about the processes for monitoring academies’ financial position and performance which were judged as not fit for purpose. Worrying too is the fact that according to the NAO report The Young People’s Learning Agency (the body overseeing the academy programme) has identified that just over a quarter of academies may require additional financial or managerial support to secure their longer-term financial health.

As of January 2011 even then the DfE was admitting that the administration of the academies programme was a stretch given the 33% budget cuts needed. And this was before the rapidly accelarating rate of academy conversions we are now witnessing. Additionally, according to the DfE’s website an initial start-up grant of £25,000 is made available to each new academy while they would annuallly receive an extra £300-£500 per pupil. But clearly this money is not always spent as well as it should be. A growing proportion of a shrinking education budget is being diverted to fund an idealogically driven policy that doesn’t work on an academic level and is not financially sustainable either.

Furthermore, the ratio of inclusion of local representatives on the board of governors for academies means that local accountability has been affected and not for the better.  For example the ratio of parent governors has been reduced from 22%-25% by law in maintained primary schools to an average of 11%  for academies while the teacher representation has been reduced from a legally required 12.5% to a non-obligatory average of 9% of board members. All this serves to reduce local accountability and input into the running of academies and ensuring that they meet locally specific needs of students, families and the wider community.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this scheme needs a massive rethink. The changes needed to improve schools will not come from massive upheavals for teachers and students and new buildings accompanied by reduced local accountability and  governance restructuring. The real improvements to students’ academic outcomes will be driven by highly motivated teachers and head-teachers who are respected as professionals and are confidently able to work in conjunction with Ofsted and the DfE to put in place empirically proven educational developments that are guided by education professionals with knowledge and experience of what is best for all students.

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