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Primary schools ‘failing to honour swimming obligations’

Primary schools ‘failing to honour swimming obligations’

BBC |May 17, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News

A third of children in England cannot swim by the time they leave primary school, according to research from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA).

The research suggests many non-swimmers have never had a school swimming lesson despite its being part of the national curriculum for seven-to-11-year-olds.

The ASA says swimming is the only curriculum subject that saves lives.

The Department for Education said schools must provide lessons and pupils must be taught to swim 25m unaided.

The researchers for ASA and cereal company Kellogg’s, sponsors of the association’s swimming awards, set out to find out what proportion of 11-year-olds achieved the national curriculum target of being able to swim 25m by the time they left primary school.

Only 35 local authorities in England – around a quarter of those contacted – gave full responses to Freedom of Information requests from the team, relating to their records for 2011.

Their answers revealed that two-thirds of children achieved the target, meaning one-third did not.

The researchers calculate that this means around 200,000 children leave primary school each year unable to swim properly.

Accidental death

The survey responses also suggested that of the children who could not swim, 39% had never been offered school swimming lessons.

The report, Save School Swimming, Save Lives, calls for every child in the UK to have the opportunity to learn to swim in primary school.

It quotes figures from the National Water Safety Forum which show that more than 400 people drown each year in the UK and that drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.

The report states: “Each child should be safe in and around water, and a key element of this is being able to swim a minimum of 25m unaided.

“We call on central and local government to show their commitment to school swimming by reiterating this expectation to schools.”

It also calls on primary head teachers to make swimming a priority in their school budgets and wants Ofsted to monitor the inclusion and delivery of swimming lessons.

ASA is also offering help and advice to encourage schools with their own pools to keep them open.

David Sparkes, of the ASA, said: “Swimming is the only subject on the national curriculum that can save your life.”

Struggling to swim

The report points to a direct correlation between swimming ability and school lessons. For example, all children in South Northamptonshire, where 91% of 11-year-olds achieve the government target, get swimming lessons at school.

The report also includes a survey of more than 1,000 parents which showed almost all (98%) believed every child should be able to swim by the end of primary school but only 40% thought their children would be able to swim to safety if they got into danger in the water.

Around a quarter (24%) of parents paid for private swimming lessons but another 24% said they could not afford either lessons or pool admission.

David Walker, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said: “We are concerned to see that so many children are struggling to swim at an acceptable standard.

“RoSPA believes that good awareness of water safety and the ability to swim are essential skills.”

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: “Swimming is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, and all primary schools have a duty to provide swimming lessons for their pupils.

“By the end of primary school, pupils must be taught to swim 25m unaided using recognised strokes on their front and back and use a range of personal survival skills.

“We would expect that schools would take the needs of their children into account in making all decisions.”

Helen Bilton, of University of Reading’s Institute of Education, called for the government to help with the upkeep of school pools.

“Schools are getting the blame but really they need more support from government,” she said. “PE is not sufficiently valued as a subject for the resources to be spent on it.

“At the end of the day, swimming can’t be a priority if English and Maths Sats results are what makes a school survive an Ofsted report or not.”


Delay school entry until six, researchers urge

Delay school entry until six, researchers urge

BBC |May 16, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News education reporter

Schooling in England should not start until the age of six because having formal lessons too early can put bright children off learning, research claims.

Formal lessons should be delayed at least a year, says Dr Richard House, of the Research Centre for Therapeutic Education at Roehampton University.

Dr House is calling on the government to slow down the“premature adultification” of children.

But the government says each additional month of education is of benefit.

Children in England are expected to be in school by the age of five, earlier than most of their European peers.

‘Poorer health’ fears

However, many start in nursery or reception classes at age three or four.

They are taught using the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) compulsory curriculum – a revised version of which will be used from the autumn.

Presenting his research at the Westminster Education Forum on Wednesday, Dr House said too early an emphasis on reading, writing and maths could lead to weaker academic performance in the long term – and even poorer health.

“There are of course some children from very deprived backgrounds who on balance would, and certainly do, gain a net benefit from early interventions.

“But the evidence is now quite overwhelming that such an early introduction to institutional learning is not only quite unnecessary for the vast majority of children, but can actually cause major developmental harm, and at worst a shortened life-span.”

Dr House cited research from the United States which tracked gifted pupils.

The study found those children benefiting from being allowed to develop at their natural pace.

“Young children’s “runaway” intellect actually needs to be slowed down in the early years if they are not to risk growing up in an intellectually unbalanced way, with possible life-long negative health effects,” said Dr House.

Early benefits

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “It is vital that all children get a thorough grounding in the basics from an early age – the three Rs form the bedrock of education.

“There is a wealth of international evidence which shows how much each additional month of education benefits a child’s development and achievement by age 11.

“The new early-years foundation stage, starting this September, focuses on getting all children ready for education at age five and increasing their attainment.”

Dr House added: “More anecdotally, I am myself a living example of the virtues of ‘later is better’.

“Coming from a working-class background, I was allowed to repeat my first year at primary school when I first started school in 1958, as I was very young in the class – and I went on to obtain a first-class degree at Oxford University and a PhD.

“I doubt this would have happened if the system hadn’t had the flexibility in 1959 to allow me to repeat my first year at primary school – and from the evidence, I would also have been more likely to have had life-long negative health effects and, quite possibly, an earlier death too.”

Teachers’ performance pay ‘does not raise standards’

Teachers’ performance pay ‘does not raise standards’

BBC |May 15, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent

There is no clear link between performance pay for teachers and raising standards in schools, says an international survey.

The OECD has examined data from its Pisa tests to find whether targeting pay improves pupil achievement.

Previous studies have identified the importance of high-quality teaching.

But the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher says the international evidence reveals “no relationship” between pupils’ test results and the use of performance pay.

Researchers have already established that top-performing school systems are likely to have teachers who are well-paid or with high social status.

Stretched budgets

The quality of teaching has been identified as central to the outcomes for pupils.

A previous OECD report advised that raising achievement in schools depended on attracting the best students into teaching with“status, pay and professional autonomy”.

But raising the pay for all teachers becomes difficult when public spending is under such pressure in many countries.

The OECD report says many countries facing financial constraints want to see whether they can increase the rewards for the most effective teachers.

The OECD’s membership includes more than 30 of the world’s industrialised countries – and about half of these already use some kind of extra pay incentives for specific teachers.

As such, the OECD has examined whether such a targeted, performance-related approach delivers better results.

Professional status

The findings are that there is no clear pattern.

“In other words, some high-performing education systems use performance-based pay while others don’t,” writes Mr Schleicher.

South Korea, often applauded as an education success story, does not use performance pay. But Finland, often commended for an equitable system, does use an element of performance-based pay.

England has a performance threshold linked to higher pay – while France and Germany do not use performance pay.

But within this bigger picture of ambiguity there are some identifiable and contradictory trends.

In economies where teachers are relatively poorly paid, performance-related pay can be associated with improved student performance.

The report says this might suggest that for countries that cannot afford good pay for teachers, such a strategy could have value.

But in countries where teachers’ pay is relatively good, the use of performance pay is linked to poorer performance.

Measuring results

The report also emphasises that performance pay comes in many forms and raises many difficult questions:

How is performance to be reliably and fairly measured? How can an individual teacher’s impact be separated from the contribution of other staff? Should rewards be shared among staff reflecting their collective effort?

And it says that many successful school systems have a wider approach to attracting and rewarding staff.

This can include ensuring the public status of teachers, providing career development and giving teachers professional responsibility.

University students spend no more time with lecturers than six years ago

University students spend no more time with lecturers than six years ago

guardian.co.uk |by Jessica Shepherd

  • Jessica Shepherd Education correspondent
  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 May 2012

University students spend an average of 13.9 hours a week with teachers according to a poll. Photograph: Alamy

University students in England spend almost no more time with their lecturers than they did six years ago, despite paying three times as much in tuition fees,a study has shown.

A poll of more than 9,000 students by the Higher EducationPolicy Institute found that first- and second-year undergraduates have, on average, 13.9 hours of timetabled tutorials, seminars and lectures a week.

Six years ago, when the institute carried out a similar survey, students had 13.7 hours a week.

Between 2006 and 2012, tuition fees in England trebled from£1,000 to £3,000. This autumn they will rise again– to up to £9,000 a year. The amount universities receive from the state has been cut. Instead, students are being asked to pay more in the form of a loan that they repay when they graduate and are earning more than £21,000.

The research shows that asking students to pay more may have led to them spending more of their own time on their degrees. Today’s undergraduates study alone for 14.4 hours each week on average, compared with 13.1 hours six years ago, the institute found.

However, the research reveals that the total workload for a degree – the number of hours spent in tutorials, seminars and lectures and studying alone each week – varies significantly depending on the subject studied and whether an undergraduate is at an older or newer university.

Students at institutions established before 1992 work for an average of 28.6 hours each week, while those at universities created after 1992 work for 25.9 hours.

Older universities offer students more time in tutorials, lectures and seminars than newer universities, the research found. On average, students at older institutions have 13.1 hours a week with lecturers, while those at newer institutions have 12.4 hours.

Some students on media studies degrees are required to spend about half the number of hours with lecturers and in private study of those on medicine courses. A media studies student has on average between 18.1 and 23 hours a week, compared with between 37.3 and 34.5 hours a week for a medicine student.

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said some students’ workload resembled a part-time job, while for others it was the equivalent of a full-time post.

He said the research raised difficult questions about the comparability of degrees from English universities. “How is it possible in one university or in one subject to obtain a degree with so much less effort than is required in another university or subject? And what does it say about what it means to possess a degree from an English university if this is so?”

The study did not publish a breakdown by university of the amount of time students studied each week.

From September, all universities will be required to publish the amount of time students receive with lecturers for each degree and the employment outcomes of each course.

The National Union of Students said undergraduates expect more of universities as a result of higher fees, but institutions were failing to deliver more for them.

“Students going on to campuses this year will feel like they’re paying more and will have increased expectations to match, but there is no evidence that shifting the financial burden to students gives them more power,” Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said.

Michael Gove proposes that schools set own teachers’ pay

Michael Gove proposes that schools set own teachers’ pay

guardian.co.uk |by Jessica Shepherd

  • Jessica Shepherd, education correspondent
  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 May 2012 11.10 EDT
Michael Gove

The education secretary Michael Gove has suggested that schools set their own teachers’ pay. Photograph: David Jones/PA

England’s state schools could be allowed to set their teachers’ salaries themselves, the education secretary has proposed, leading to the end of a national pay scale for the profession.

Michael Gove made the suggestion in a submission to a review on teachers’ pay due to report this autumn.

His idea would trigger one of the biggest shakeups in teachers’working conditions for a generation and was deeply unpopular withtrade unions.

Gove said the current national pay scale for the profession was too rigid and meant that schools in some parts of the country struggled to recruit good teachers, while others significantly overpaid their staff.

Academies are already allowed to deviate from the national pay scale, but just 35% have chosen to do so.

Government research shows a wide variation in teacher vacancies and turnover across the country. In London, there are at least 40% more vacancies than across the rest of the country. Salford, in Greater Manchester, has several schools with a large number of vacancies, but in 90% of its schools there are no vacancies. Teacher turnover is above average in east London, London and the south-east, but low in the north-east.

These regional discrepancies are “indicative of the challenges that exist at an individual school level”, the government’s submission to the school teachers’ review body states.

Abolishing the national pay scale for teachers would enable schools to “accommodate local market-facing pay fluctuations and any school specific issues that might affect the school’s ability to attract and retain high quality teachers”, the submission says.

It would also allow schools to manage their budgets more effectively and pay good teachers more, earlier in their careers. However, the submission admits there are considerable disadvantages to a system of complete deregulation.

The government could not oblige all schools to take account of the local labour market, for example, and schools could pay qualified teachers at a significantly reduced rate. Other suggestions include giving headteachers and their governing bodies a larger degree of pay flexibility than they currently have.

At present, teachers’ pay automatically rises according to their experience.

Gove has also asked the school teachers’ review body to look into whether teachers’ pay should be more closely linked to performance and whether there should be local pay, triggering threats of strikes from the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

This week, an international study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development showed there was no clear link between awarding teachers performance-related pay and improving standards in schools.

Gove’s proposal to scrap teachers’ national pay scale was greeted with anger from trade unions.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said a national pay scale gave the profession transparency and ensured “much greater fairness and non-discrimination than pay levels determined at school level”.

“Education is a nationally-delivered service so local pay for a teacher is completely inappropriate. It would reduce teacher mobility, create shortages in areas of lower pay, hit recruitment and retention, and create needless extra expense and bureaucracy for schools. The most disadvantaged parts of the country would be hit by a double whammy of government cuts and lower pay,” she said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers’ pay should be more closely linked to performance. “Good teachers ought to be able to progress more quickly on the basis of a rounded and objective judgement of their performance,” he said. But he rejected the idea of schools setting their teachers’ pay. “This will force schools in our most deprived communities to pay staff less,” he said.

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