Things To Do For The Family

Things To Do For The Family

Things to do this Bank Holiday Weekend and throughout the Spring of 2012

Ofsted risks put off school leaders, say heads

Ofsted risks put off school leaders, say heads

BBC |May 5, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News, NAHT conference in Harrogate
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Over 50% of deputy and head teachers do not want to apply for further posts as school leaders, the National Association of Heads Teachers warns.

The association says many good candidates are put off headship by the demands of Ofsted inspections.

From September schools given notice to improve by inspectors will only have two more chances to improve standards before being put into special measures.

The NAHT says heads need time to turn struggling schools around.

Speaking at the NAHT annual conference in Harrogate, general secretary Russell Hobby said: “It’s three strikes and you’re out -you have to wonder who is going to take on a school with two satisfactory Oftseds [inspection reports] when they then have a 12 month window to turn around that school.

“If they’re going to take on those schools, they need to know they’ve got time and space to make those changes – otherwise we’ll just see superficial measures to get the headline figures up.

“It’s three strikes and you’re out.”

‘Russian roulette’

Meanwhile the incoming president of the NAHT and Yorkshire head teacher, Steve Iredale, accused ministers of playing Russian roulette with children’s education.

“Is it not time for governments, of whichever persuasion, to see the bigger picture and work towards the greater good for all children and the future economic success of our country rather than playing Russian roulette with their lives?

“You really do have to ask, does political meddling really have a place in our children’s learning?”

Mr Iredale was also critical of Ofsted and the chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s plans to introduce no-notice inspections from the autumn.

Currently, schools get up to two days’ notice of an inspection.

Mr Iredale also challenged ministers to work with heads “in an open and honest way” to develop policies for schools.

“I am fed up to the back teeth of policies which are clearly created on the back of a fag packet and are consequently damaging our health, that of our children and the future prosperity of our nations.”

Overpaid academy schools must return £15m by July

Overpaid academy schools must return £15m by July

BBC |May 4, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News
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Dozens of academies must return nearly £15m by July because of a government funding blunder, say accountants for some of the affected schools.

Figures obtained under a freedom of information request show 128 academies have been overpaid by the government.

On average, each affected school must pay back almost£118,000, according to UHY Hacker Young Accountants.

Ministers would like all English state schools to become academies, which are funded directly by Whitehall.

A government spokeswoman said: “Where pupil numbers don’t match estimates, we claw back excess funding.”

In a statement, the Department for Education said the current problem was caused by an old funding formula used to allocate the budgets of the older academies.

“A small proportion of academies… receive funding based on pupil estimates, not pupil numbers. This is because of the way their funding agreements were written.

The spokeswoman added that the government was working to simplify the system and ensure that all schools were funded fairly in future.

‘Serious cashflow problems’

But Allan Hickie, a partner at UHY Hacker Young, told BBC News there were also errors in some of the government calculations.

“The increase in the number academies meant the government agency responsible for allocating the funding was swamped by work and this led to some of the errors.

“Some schools may not yet know they have a problem. It all depends whether their business manager has noticed they have been overpaid.”

Mr Hickie added that schools with tight cash flow could be seriously affected by having to pay back the money which could amount to 10% of their budget.

He said his firm was acting for one primary school that had been overfunded by £190,000, a sum that could pay for five teachers.

This particular school only became an academy last summer.

He added that about one in 10 academies would now have significantly less money than anticipated, and many would have already spent the money.

“It is difficult to see how that much money could be cut from the existing budget without adversely impacting educational standards.

“Significant adjustments to funding two-thirds of the way through the academic year can cause serious cashflow problems.”

He called for the Education Funding Agency, which recently took over responsibility for allocating academies’ funding, to ensure that future adjustments were kept to a minimum.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the clawbacks were a symptom of confusion in the school funding system and feared it could even lead to staff redundancies at the academies affected.

“It will be a big blow to these schools and plans will be disrupted,” he said.

Exam boards face fines for test paper errors

Exam boards face fines for test paper errors

BBC |May 4, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News
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Exam boards face multi-million pound fines for mistakes in test papers under new powers granted to the exams watchdog Ofqual.

Just days before the exam season gets under way, the regulator has given details of new sanctions – including fines of up to 10% of annual turnover.

The regulator can also order exam papers to be rewritten or ban boards from offering certain qualifications.

Fiona Pethick of Ofqual promised to “act firmly and robustly”.

The biggest exam boards have turnovers of up to £300m, so fines of 10% would be substantial.

The government says the money will go to the public purse.

Ms Pethick, Ofqual’s director of regulation said: “We want awarding organisations to provide high-quality qualifications and good levels of service.

“Our additional powers, including the power to fine, mean that when things go wrong, we have more ways in which we can sanction an awarding organisation.

“With exams starting shortly, this is a timely announcement for us as we now have our new powers in place should there be any problems during this important period.”

‘Unanswerable questions’

The move follows a series of unanswerable questions and printing errors in last summer’s A-level and GCSE exam papers, sat by 140,000 students in England Wales and Northern Ireland.

After about a dozen mistakes were found in national test papers, the government promised to have new regulatory powers, including a system of fines, ready for this summer’s exams.

Last summer’s mistakes included multiple-choice questions where all the answers were wrong, and questions which were impossible to answer because wrong information had been given.

The subjects affected were geography, maths, chemistry, biology, business studies and Latin.

Pupils vented their anger on social networking sites, with some calling for the exams to be re-staged.

At the time the exam boards apologised for the mistakes and said they were taking measures to ensure pupils would not be advantaged or disadvantaged by them.

Heads warning over smart phone pornography

Heads warning over smart phone pornography

BBC |May 4, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News, Harrogate
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Parents must take greater responsibility for the material their children are accessing on computers and smart phones urge head teachers.

Some heads say pupils are viewing pornography and other unsuitable material on phones bought by parents.

Others say they increasingly see pupils as young as four re-enacting violent computer games in the playground.

The National Association of Head Teachers says parents need to be aware of the dangers of technology.

Speaking as the NAHT annual conference got underway in Harrogate, head teachers said they wanted more guidance from government on how to deal with pupils who have access to inappropriate material.

Pornography

Kenny Frederick, a primary head teacher from London, said: “What is a big issue in terms of mobile phones is parents buying their youngsters smartphones on which they can access pornography, anything, it’s something we have no control over.

“Parents have to take control. Trying to make sure parents understand the issues is a big thing.

“In terms of messaging and so on, we deal with the issues around that day in and day out. It’s a growing problem. Schools have a part to play, but parents have to take control of that at home.

“It doesn’t start in school, but it ends up in school and we have to deal with the fallout when there are allegations of bullying and so on down to the misuse of mobile phones and technology.”

John Killeen, a primary head teacher from North Yorkshire, said head teachers were increasingly aware of children having access to inappropriate software and films.

“They’re replicating the games. It could be combat fighting, kung foo attacks. They see people doing it and they think they can replicate that in play situations.”

‘Reclaim social media’

Stephen Watkins, a primary head from Leeds, said young children were often not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

“Four-year-olds don’t understand that if you hit someone over the head with a brick they’re not going to recover immediately and jump up – as they do on screen.”

But Sue Street, a school leader in Harrow, London, said it was important for schools to embrace modern technology.

“We’re encouraging heads to engage with social media,” she said.

“Using it and setting a good example is one of the best ways of stopping children and parents from engaging in some of the other elements of it.

“We’ve got to reclaim it [social media]… we’re hoping more and more heads will get involved.”

The NAHT conference will debate social media over the weekend and is likely to call for more child protection guidance from government.

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