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Students slow to apply for teacher training

Students slow to apply for teacher training

guardian.co.uk |by Rebecca Ratcliffe

  • Rebecca Ratcliffe
  • guardian.co.uk, Thursday 31 May 2012 08.46 EDT
teacher training

Figures from last year suggest entrance to teacher training courses is already increasingly competitive. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Fewer students are applying to become teachers since the government began to reduce bursaries for those with 2:2 degrees and turn away applicants with thirds.

Applications to teacher trainingcourses are down by 15% on last year, after the number of bursaries was also cut back for those applying to teach non-priority subjects.

But research shows more students want to join the profession. Over 80% of final-year students think teaching is a high-status career choice, according to research released today by the Teaching Agency, while a separate survey shows schools and universities are the second most popular type of employer

Professor John Howson, director of Data for Education which monitors teacher recruitment, says changes to entry criteria have caused a slump in applications.

“This is the first year since the government has effectively banned applications from those holding a third. At the same time, bursaries are dependent upon degree classification – in competitive subject areas those holding a 2.2 will not get a bursary.”

The basic skills test of literacy and numeracy to be sat by all trainee teachers from this year is to be made more rigorous, as part of government efforts to make the profession “brazenly elitist”.

Figures from last year suggest entrance to teacher training courses is already increasingly competitive. Entrants to Initial Teacher Training (ITT) held the highest number of 2:1s and first-class degrees on record, while the numbers of top-class graduates entering university-based training has also increased.

It is difficult to predict if the recruitment changes will create better teachers, says Howson. “On the one hand, you can argue that the better qualified graduates are, the better teachers they will be. But of course there are other characteristics which make great teachers, such as interpersonal skills and resilience.”

Dan Ashbury, who is studying for a PGCE in modern and foreign languages at Goldsmiths, University of London, says there are many different elements to teaching: “I spent time teaching English in Austria while I was on my year abroad and realised that it was what I wanted to do. But it isn’t any easy job – as a teacher you’re expected to do everything from providing care and support, to imparting knowledge and being an authoritative figure.”

The Department for Education revealed recruitment for five subject areas is below target in its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) earlier this month, though it did not specify which these were.

Alex McClimens, a spokesperson for the Teaching Agency, says it expects more people will apply towards the end of the year.“Inquiries about training to teach are up and we’re confident that this will translate into applications later in the year.”

For some subjects, more funding has been made available. Applications to teach modern foreign languages and physics have increasedfollowing the introduction of financial incentives, including tax-free bursaries of up to £20,000.

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Teachers could have pay frozen after poor school inspection reports

Teachers could have pay frozen after poor school inspection reports

guardian.co.uk |by Jeevan Vasagar

  • Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
  • The Guardian, Tuesday 29 May 2012
Pupils in a classroom

Ofsted’s ‘satisfactory’ grade for schools will from September be replaced with ‘requires improvement’. Photograph: Alamy

Teachers could have their pay frozen after school inspections under new Ofsted measures aimed at linking salaries with the quality of classroom performance.

Announcing the changes, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said Ofsted will“consider whether there is a correlation between the quality ofteaching and salary progression”.

Inspectors will look at anonymised information about the performance management of all teachers in schools they visit to ensure that heads are using pay to raise standards, Ofsted says. But inspectors will not be able to influence the salary of individual teachers.

In a speech in February, the chief inspector said heads should only approve salary increases for the most hardworking teachers. “The thing that irritates good teachers, people who work hard and go the extra mile, is seeing the people that don’t do that being rewarded,”Wilshaw said.

MPs have recommended that teachers’ pay should be more closely linked to the value they add to pupil performance so that the best are rewarded while the weakest are discouraged from staying in the profession.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, criticised the measure, saying it was wrong to pay one teacher more than another for success that was due to the efforts of everyone in the school.

She said: “Performance management is supposed to be about encouraging teachers in developing their skills, not about judging pay or comparing pupil results,” Blower said. “Teaching is a collegiate profession and this is a divisive, unrealistic and simplistic way of looking at how schools work.”

In the same announcement, Ofsted dropped plans to inspect schools without notice after protest from heads. From this autumn schools will be given notice the afternoon before inspectors visit. At present, the normal notice period is two days.

Heads feared that inspecting schools without notice meant they might be away when inspectors arrived, and that the proposed change indicated a lack of trust in the professions.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), praised Ofsted for dropping the proposal for no-notice inspection.

Wilshaw said the progress made by pupils would be central to inspectors’ judgment. If pupils were making good progress, a school would be able to get a good Ofsted report even if results were below average.

Wilshaw confirmed that Ofsted would no longer describe schools as “satisfactory” when they were not providing a good level of education. From September, the “satisfactory” grade will be replaced with “requires improvement” and those schools will be subject to an explicit report of its failings and a full re-inspection within two years.

If a school is judged to require improvement at two consecutive inspections, and is still not providing a good education at the third, it is likely to be placed in special measures. Ofsted will expect schools to improve to “good” within four years.

He said: “School leaders will be relieved to hear that Ofsted has listened to their concerns. This signals a move towards establishing a more constructive working relationship between the profession and its inspectorate.

“Ofsted is rightly maintaining a robust position on standards– a position which the NAHT supports – but this move signifies a genuine attempt to work with schools on the best way to achieve those standards.”

Minister rejects claim that immigration curbs will damage higher education

Minister rejects claim that immigration curbs will damage higher education

guardian.co.uk |by Hélène Mulholland

  • Hélène Mulholland, political reporter
  • guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 May 2012 05.44 EDT
Students in a common room

Britain attracts around one in 10 foreign undergraduates and postgraduates who study outside their home country. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The government has rejected claims that the crackdown on immigration risks deterring legitimate foreign students and losing the British economy billions of pounds a year.

A letter to the prime minister, David Cameron, signed by 68 university chancellors, governors and presidents, urges the government to take foreign students out of net immigration counts amid fears that toughening up the rules on student visas may drive applicants towards institutions in other countries.

They urge ministers to class foreign students as temporary rather than permanent migrants.

Signatories to the letter include the former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, who is chancellor of St Andrews University, as well as the broadcaster Lord Bragg, chancellor of the University of Leeds. They also include former Conservative minister Virginia Bottomley, chancellor of the University of Hull, and Patrick Stewart, chancellor of the University of Huddersfield.

The letter – circulated by Universities UK (UUK) –says Britain attracts around one in 10 foreign undergraduates and postgraduates who study outside their home country, according to the Daily Telegraph.

This generates around £8bn a year for the UK in tuition fees and other investment, it is claimed, with the total expected to more than double by 2025.

But UUK told the Telegraph that many risked being pushed towards other countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and Germany.

The immigration minister, Damian Green, said the Office for National Statistics was responsible for producing net migration figures, which were based on an internationally agreed definition of a migrant – someone entering the country for more than a year.

Green insisted the policy did not stop genuine students coming to the UK but said the government was “determined to prevent the abuse of student visas as part of our plans to get net migration down to the tens of thousands”.

“Public confidence in statistics will not be enhanced by revising the way the net migration numbers are presented by removing students,” he said.

Home Office research conducted in 2010 showed 20% of students who came in 2004 remained in the UK five years later.

Green said: “When we announced our full raft of changes to the student visa route, Universities UK said that the proposals ‘will allow British universities to remain at the forefront of international student recruitment’.

“Students coming to the UK for over a year are not visitors– numbers affect communities, public services and infrastructure.”

The letter states: “In this Olympic year, when our universities will be hosting athletics teams and media from across the globe, we urge you to send a clear message that genuine international students are also welcome in, and valued by, the United Kingdom.”

Home Office ministers have introduced a wide range of curbs on the 400,000 overseas students who come to Britain each year to study as part of their drive to reduce annual net migration from its current level of 240,000 a year to below 100,000 by the time of the 2015 general election.

The changes to the student visa system place a limit on the number of years non-European Union students can spend studying and restrict the number of hours of paid work they can do during and after their degrees.

In addition, they are no longer allowed to bring their spouses or children with them unless they are enrolled on a postgraduate course that lasts more than a year.

They claim some universities have already seen the number of applications from India drop by a third this year.

Nicola Dandridge, the UUK chief executive, told the Telegraph the “cumulative effect of all these changes is to present a picture of the UK as not welcoming international students”.

“As competitor countries start to introduce visa changes to attract more international students and academics, we have real concerns about the situation in the long term,” she said.

“Although the UK continues to have one of the strongest higher education systems in the world, in recent years, we have already started losing market share in the face of growing competition globally.

“The reality is that countries such as the US and Australia are taking active steps to encourage international students and are communicating a very different message … It is clear that international students at universities should not be treated as permanent migrants, since the vast majority of them leave the UK at the end of their studies.”

A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research publishedearlier this month said the refusal to exclude international students from the government’s drive to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands was damaging British education and putting at risk £4bn to £6bn a year in benefits to the UK economy.

Teachers threaten fresh wave of strikes

Teachers threaten fresh wave of strikes

BBC |May 28, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent
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NUT’s Christine Blower says Mr Gove has a“window of opportunity” for talks

The two biggest teachers’ unions are threatening strikes in the autumn in England and Wales over workload, cuts, pensions and plans for local pay.

The NUT and NASUWT announced a wide-ranging joint campaign over what they call the “denigration” of teachers.

The two unions, together representing 85% of teachers, said they would mount an “unprecedented” campaign.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the disruption of strike action in schools “benefits nobody”.

The heads of both unions have written to Education Secretary Michael Gove warning of the “deep concerns” of teachers and calling on him to engage in talks with this joint campaign.

They say if the government refuses to “negotiate sensible arrangements” they will “move to escalate industrial action, including jointly coordinated strike action and action short of strike action in the autumn”.

‘Wild west’

The two unions – now forming their own coalition against Coalition education policies – described their alliance as an“historic joint agreement”.

It throws down a gauntlet to government – offering a “time limited” window for talks, followed by the threat of a campaign to oppose education policy.

This could include strikes in the autumn term – but the union leaders suggested it could also mean refusing to co-operate with some government initiatives.

At a joint press conference at the British Library in London, NUT leader Christine Blower and NASUWT leader Chris Keates, said the teaching profession was in “crisis”.

They set out grievances on a wide range of issues – including pay and pensions – but they focused on their belief that teachers were being subjected to unfair public attacks from government.

Such an undermining of their position made them feel that “there was more stability in the wild west”, said Ms Keates.

She said unlike other areas of public service reform, changes in education were characterised by “an almost daily denigration” of professional staff.

Ms Blower also asked what head of a private company would publicly criticise their own staff.

Such pressures were “damaging to teachers’ health and well-being”, said the joint union declaration.

Local pay deals

This compounded the impact of the increasing cost of teachers’pensions and the “threat to jobs” from spending cuts and the“privatisation” of services, said the teachers’ unions.

“Since the government came into office, there has been a relentless and unprecedented assault on teachers’ pay and conditions of service,” said Ms Keates.

“This assault on teachers is damaging standards of education. Our two unions… are united in our determination to defend education by protecting teachers.”

The NUT leader said: “Occasionally saying we have the best generation of teachers we’ve ever had in no way compensates for the onslaught of attacks and threats to pay, pensions and working conditions.”

Earlier this month, the government submitted proposals for teachers’ pay that would mean far-reaching changes.

Schools minister Nick Gibb: “It is surprising…(strike action) benefits nobody”

The submission to the teachers’ pay body – the School Teachers’Review Body – suggested that pay could be set at a local rather than national level and would be more strongly linked to performance.

Such plans – which could be in place by autumn 2013 – were criticised by teachers’ unions and would be likely to become another area of dispute.

In response to the union declaration, the Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he was “disappointed” and surprised at the announcement -as there were already regular opportunities for teachers’ unions to talk to government.

Mr Gibb said that strike action “benefits nobody”.

“It doesn’t benefit teachers and it certainly doesn’t benefit the children who will miss education.”

Labour’s Shadow Education Minister, Sharon Hodgson, said:“Clearly no-one wants to see schools being disrupted. We urge all sides to continue dialogue so as to avoid industrial action.

“Both sides need to avoid adopting ideological positions, and it’s important that the government ceases its dogmatic attacks on the teaching profession.”

The Mossbourne way is not the only way to be an ‘outstanding’ school

The Mossbourne way is not the only way to be an ‘outstanding’ school

guardian.co.uk

  • Heath Monk
  • guardian.co.uk, Monday 28 May 2012 14.30 EDT
Children line up at Mossbourne community academy in Hackney.

Children line up at Mossbourne community academy in Hackney. Its rigorous attention to uniform and behaviour is just one of the ways it has developed its reputation for excellence. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

The start of Sir Michael Wilshaw’s tenure as head of Ofsted has been full of controversy. Stories of low morale among school staff and incompetent inspectors have hit the headlines. Because of this, we risk missing the central point: there are still too many children, especially in disadvantaged areas, who are being failed by the system.

Wilshaw’s vision is that no child should be denied academic success because of their postcode or family background – and rightly so. For too long, it has been accepted that a school’s outcomes are based largely on its intake. This socio-economic determinism has led to a culture of excuses. Nevertheless, the drive for schools to become“outstanding” as quickly as possible may have side-effects that we should take action to avoid.

School leaders have a profound effect on what happens in every classroom and corridor. Over time, schools reflect the attitudes of their leaders. At its best, this leads to a diversity of approaches. Mossbourne community academy in Hackney, Wilshaw’s former posting, has developed a reputation for its structured environment and rigorous attention to uniform and behaviour. Visitors are struck by the silent lesson transitions and the use of a mantra at the start of every lesson, when every child affirms their readiness to learn.

The school is perhaps less well known for its commitment to creative teaching and for its use of small, highly inclusive nurture groups to help children with low levels of basic literacy to catch up. Despite the caricature that is presented of a militaristic regime, the students are filled with a sense of joy that is ever-so-slightly unexpected.

The best schools are not easy to define – their values and cultures have grown over time. However, increased external pressure is forcing many schools to try to shortcut this process – by simply importing successful practices from outside. Many job adverts for senior posts specify that the applicant “knows what outstanding looks like”. Schools are seeking access, through new appointments, to an outstanding blueprint that they can replicate.

Looking for “outstanding” in this way may create short-term benefits, but it also has significant drawbacks. Classroom teachers who are ambitious will be drawn to schools that are judged“outstanding”, giving a wide berth to struggling schools that need them most but are at risk of being seen as career black holes. The process of testing one’s teaching and leadership in a challenging environment and discovering – sometimes painfully –what works is, I believe, much more important than simply experiencing a great exemplar that someone else has created.

Ultimately, this tendency to transplant pre-existing practices without their underlying values could lead to a static idea of what an “outstanding” school looks like, endlessly recreated across the system, but without the passion and life-blood that infused the original. There’s an awful lot that can be learned from Wilshaw’s example at Mossbourne academy. But there are many other schools that have taken a different approach that reflects the values and beliefs of their leadership teams and communities. And there are effective ideas and practices that could be taken from all these schools and moulded to fit the context and the culture.

I’m not for a second saying that schools should not be held to account or have the highest of expectations. But it is essential that the strategies used to achieve those standards are allowed to develop, based on evidence and on the experience of schools and school leaders finding their own way. “Outstanding” should come in all shapes and sizes, and must not be turned into an off-the-peg standard, like an IKEA bookshelf. In school communities, it’s how you build it that counts.

Rise in financial hardship for Hull University students

Rise in financial hardship for Hull University students

BBC |May 31, 2012

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The number of Hull University students facing financial hardship increased by 54% over the past four years, its union said.

The student union said 2,300 students had contacted its advisors for support last year compared to 1,500 in 2008.

About 22,000 students study at the university. Four years ago, there were 21,000.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) said“generous packages of financial support” were available.

Gina Rayment, from Hull University’s student union, said:“They’re coming to us with quite serious problems such as possible rent arrears where they could actually lose a roof over their heads.”

Food parcels“It isn’t just that they need some money for a Friday night, it’s actually that they need money for food, they need money to pay their bills and they need money for rent.”

The union said there were a number of reasons why students were facing hardship including mismanagement of money or loss of parental incomes.

“One of the main reasons here in Hull is that there are no part-time jobs that students used to rely on to get themselves through university,” said Ms Rayment.

The rise in financial hardship has also led to an increase in the number of food parcels it provides to students.

Last year the union distributed 70 food parcels to students compared to 30 in 2008, the union said.

A spokesperson from BIS said: “There is a generous package of financial support to help with living costs in the form of loans and non-repayable grants.

“Our reforms will offer more financial support and lower monthly repayments once you are in well paid work.”

Five-term plan for Nottingham schools to be reconsidered

Five-term plan for Nottingham schools to be reconsidered

BBC |May 31, 2012

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Nottingham City Council has agreed to reconsider plans to switch to a five-term school year after talks with a teachers union.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) opposed the changes, which included a shorter summer break, and held a series of strikes earlier this year.

Now the authority has said it will meet with all school trades unions to look at “alternative models”.

It follows talks between the two sides led by conciliation service Acas.

Nottingham City Council said altering the school year would boost attainment, but the NUT viewed the change as disruptive.

A joint statement said: “Following constructive discussions, under the auspice of Acas, over proposed changes to school terms and holidays pattern, it has been agreed that a further meeting will be called with all of the schools trade unions to look at alternative models of terms and holidays.

‘Progress made’“The outcome of these discussions will then be considered by executive councillors.

“The NUT has agreed to suspend any further industrial action while discussions are ongoing. Collective agreement on a way forward is still being pursued by all parties.”

David Mellen, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “I am pleased that progress has been made in our aim to best meet the needs of our city children in the way our terms and holidays are arranged.”

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “I am pleased that the NUT has reached agreement which provides for all options to be considered, to form part of constructive negotiations which will now involve all unions representing school staff.”

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