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Segregated UK schools ‘toxic for poor’

Segregated UK schools ‘toxic for poor’

BBC |April 4, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter at the ATL conference in Manchester
Schools in the UK are segregated along class lines, creating a “toxic” effect for the poor, a teachers’ leader says.

This was set to worsen as government “austerity policies” pushed more children into poverty, Association of Teachers and Lecturers head Dr Mary Bousted warned.

Teachers alone were not responsible for poor pupils’ under achievement.

The government said many schools had failed to address poor performance.

Dr Bousted said class remained a key determining factor in educational attainment.

In her closing speech to her association’s conference in Manchester, the ATL general secretary described an education system“stratified on class lines”.

“We have schools for the elite, schools for the middle class and schools for the working class.

“Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another.”

She added: “The effect of unbalanced school intake is toxic for the poorest and most dispossessed.”

Dr Bousted hit out at ministers for holding teachers solely responsible for the educational outcomes of the poor.

“If the poor don’t make as much progress as the rich, it is the school and the teachers within it who are to blame.

“This, you and I know, is a nonsense. It is a lie which conveniently enables ministers to evade responsibility for the effects of their policies.”

‘Washing their hands’And she accused Education Secretary Michael Gove and the head of the school watchdog Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, of washing their hands of the causes of educational failure.

Teachers were straining “every sinew”, she said, to raise aspiration and achievement, but struggled against the effects of poverty, ill health and deprivation.

She called on society to look at the effects of poverty on educational performance, saying: “These effects are real, they are present and they are dangerous.”

Instead the coalition government was neglecting young people, with an increase of 110,000 pupils claiming free school meals and predictions of 200,000 more children set to fall below the poverty line, she said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said schools could not solve all problems but many had not “properly addressed poor performance”.

“Union leaders should be challenging underperformance in our schools on behalf of their members, rather than defending a culture of under achievement.

“The public and many teachers in the country will be confused that union leaders dislike the idea of schools being given the freedom to pay good teachers more.

“We are making more money available for schools to support disadvantaged children with the pupil premium. The previous funding system simply didn’t work. We have reformed it so that thousands of children will finally be getting the extra support they need to succeed.”


Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Nick Gibb, the schools minister

Nick Gibb, the schools minister. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA

Teachers are expected to solve too many of society’s problems, the schools minister Nick Gibb has said.

In a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Gibb criticised lobby groups for saying schools could help tackle a growing number of issues.

He said children were now more aggressive and more likely to grow up in “fragmented families” without boundaries, but the answer was not to “fill the school curriculum with all the social issues that pressure groups want us to put [in the school day]”.

“It seems that the first answer of many to almost any problem in society is to give a duty to schools to tackle it, be it obesity, teenage pregnancy or knife crime,” he said. “It feels like every other week I am presented with proposals from one well-meaning group or another to add something ‘socially desirable’ to the curriculum.”

Gibb said one lobby group had asked him to make pilates compulsory for pupils. “We could easily fill up the school curriculum with all the social issues that many pressure groups want us to put in the curriculum. Then there would be no time left for the academic subjects that need to be taught,” he said. “My view is that the best way for schools to tackle social problems… is to make sure children leave school well-educated. That is the best way out of poverty.”

In an ATL poll of 1,292 primary and secondary teachers and college lecturers, 73% said their job was damaging their health and wellbeing, and a quarter said they had taken sick leave from work since September.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said the demands placed on those working in schools and colleges was rising. “It is not surprising that so many teachers and lecturers are considering leaving the profession. They are having to cope with endless government initiatives, Ofsted inspections and pressure … to get pupils through tests.”

Teachers have warned that coalition plans to pay teachers according to where they live could lead to lower salaries for those who teach arts, and for primary school teachers.

George Osborne, the chancellor, said in his budget statement last month that he wanted to see public sector pay “more responsive to local pay rates” to help the private sector grow in economically depressed parts of the UK.

A poll of 791 teachers by ATL found that 53% expected this would lead to their salaries being linked to the age group of children they taught, and 62% thought it would result in maths and science teachers being paid the most.

Pupil behaviour worse since abolition of caning, warn teachers

Pupil behaviour worse since abolition of caning, warn teachers

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

School canes

School canes being made during the last century. Corporal punishment was outlawed in schools in 1987. Photograph: Hulton Getty/Getty Images

Children’s behaviour has grown considerably worse since the abolition of corporal punishment 25 years ago, teachers have warned.

Successive governments have failed to introduce an effective way to deal with misbehaviour since striking pupils with a cane or slipper was outlawed in 1987, the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) heard.

Teachers said detentions fail to deter pupils, while exclusions and suspensions are only handed out in the most serious cases because inspectors take a dim view of schools that regularly exclude children.

“The forms of discipline currently available to teachers for dealing with inappropriate behaviour remain totally inadequate,”Julian Perfect, a London teacher told the conference.

Perfect said while he did not support the reintroduction of corporal punishment, it was worth noting there had been “no attempt to introduce any new method of sanction into schools … that has the same effect as a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour as corporal punishment had.”

Children’s behaviour has deteriorated further over the past few years, he said.

“Persistent, low-level rudeness and disruption seems to have become a fact of life in education today and no longer raises eyebrows or seems to merit special attention,” Perfect said, quoting a secondary school teacher who did not want to be named.

Ministers – past and present – have failed to suggest “any novel methods for disciplining pupils” that give teachers’ “meaningful authority”, Perfect said.

The Education Act 2011 gives teachers the right to search pupils for banned items, such as mobile phones. The law also removed a requirement to give parents a day’s notice if their child was handed a detention.

Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, warned that pupils were becoming spoilt “little Buddhas”.

She said parents were failing to define boundaries for their children. “Far too many children are waited on hand and foot. They don’t make their beds or do the hoovering,” she said. “It doesn’t do them any favours if you make them little Buddhas. It certainly doesn’t help them in school because they end up not understanding their responsibilities to other children.”

She added that children had begun to believe their teachers were there to “serve them”.

A poll of 814 teachers, conducted by ATL and published last week, found a third had been hit or kicked by a student in the last academic year.

Teachers Tempted To Rewrite Pupils’ Exam Answers

Teachers Tempted To Rewrite Pupils’ Exam Answers

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Headteachers consider strike

Seven out of ten teachers polled said pressure to improve their pupils’ grades has intensified. Photograph Rui Vieira/PA

More than a third of teachers have admitted they could be tempted to re-write their pupils’ exam answers, according to a poll.

Some 35% of teachers said the pressure to improve their students’ grades was now so strong they could be persuaded to cheat.

A few admitted cheating was already rife in their schools in the survey of 512 teachers conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

One secondary school French teacher, who didn’t want to be named, told the pollsters she “virtually re-wrote” students’ work to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them:

“I do this simply because there is not time to do both.”

A primary school teacher told the pollsters she had “been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up”. “Our head fears an Ofsted inspection should our results waver.”

A secondary school teacher said their school “definitely pushes the boundaries of exam integrity”. Maintaining the school’s status in league tables “took precedence over developing the abilities of pupils,” they said.

A spokesman from the Department for Education said parents would be “absolutely outraged” if teachers were manipulating exam or test scores.

“There is absolutely no excuse for teachers cheating … It undermines other staff, damages children’s education and risks destroying the public’s faith in the profession.”

He said all the leading education systems in the world had“robust” testing in schools and classroom inspections. “Parents and the taxpayer would rightly be asking questions if they couldn’t judge how schools are doing,” he said.

Some 71% of those polled said pressure to improve their pupils’grades had increased in the past two years. Teachers were asked to list the groups placing pressure on them. Some 88% said their headteachers, 51% said inspectors and 50% said parents. Just over a third said the government.

The majority of teachers offer after-school classes, while 9% said they sometimes give up weekends to coach pupils. Just over a quarter gave rewards to pupils to encourage them to study harder.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said the government’s“persistent” focus on tests, exams and league tables left teachers under “enormous pressure” and that this was “often to the detriment to high quality teaching and learning.”

“Results now appear to be more important than learning this does nothing to help children’s progress,” she said. The government needs to think urgently about relieving the pressure on headteachers and leaders. This pressure simply filters on to teachers and lecturers in the classroom.”

Thousands of teachers and lecturers will gather in Manchester on Monday for ATL’s annual conference.

Exam Pressure ‘Undermining Teacher’s Integrity’

Exam Pressure ‘Undermining Teacher’s Integrity’

BBC |April 2, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
Some teachers’ professional integrity is being undermined by the pressure to get good exam results, a union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers says teachers have been forced to “manipulate results” and even “re-write students’work” to boost results.

A snapshot survey of ATL members found a third felt their integrity was being compromised by what was asked of them.

ATL head Dr Mary Bousted said results seemed to be more valued than learning.

The union carried out research with 512 of its teacher members working in state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It said teachers felt under increasing pressure to get pupils through tests and exams.

About two-thirds of those surveyed were supplying pupils with more practice tests and running after-school classes or one-to-one classes.

A third said they had helped pupils prepare by attending meetings to find out “exam themes”.

A quarter of teachers felt obliged to attend exam board seminars to help their pupils get ahead.

And some 35% said the pressure they were under could compromise their professional integrity.

‘Impossible’One teacher at a primary school in England said: “I have been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up, as our head fears [there will be] an Ofsted inspection should our results waver.

“I work in an infant school.”

Another at an English secondary school said: “The school I work at definitely pushes the boundaries of exam integrity.

“Maintaining their “gold-plated” status by far takes precedence over developing the abilities of the pupils.”

He added: “Controlled assessments and aspects of coursework are problem areas for cheating, with senior leadership driving the agenda.”

And a third, a teacher in a grammar school in Northern Ireland, said: “In some cases I end up virtually rewriting my students’homework to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them my subject, French. I do this because there is simply not time to do both!”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “There is absolutely no excuse for teachers cheating.

“Parents will be absolutely outraged to hear anyone admit they’ve manipulated test scores. It undermines other staff, damages children’s education and risks destroying the public’s faith in the profession.”

‘Failures’Others focused on the stress on pupils. There appeared to be a consensus among teachers that the pressure was damaging for pupils as well.

Nine out of 10 teachers surveyed said they felt tests and exams were the biggest source of pressure on pupils and young people, causing increased anxiety for them.

One teacher from an English primary school said: “I fear we are switching a great many pupils off before they have even left primary school!”

Dr Bousted said children in the UK were among the most tested in the world.

“This creates a huge pressure on young people, with many whose progress has been outstanding on a personal or emotional level feeling like failures following test and exam results.

“With the government’s persistent focus on tests, exam results and league tables, many teachers and lecturers also feel under enormous pressure – often at the detriment to high quality teaching, learning and development of their pupils.”

She called for the government to look again at its test and exams regime.

Poor Parenting ‘Fuels Rise In Violent Behaviour’

Poor Parenting ‘Fuels Rise In Violent Behaviour’

BBC |March 30, 2012


By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter

Poor parenting and family breakdown is fuelling a rise in violent bad behaviour in UK schools, a survey says.

A third of teachers polled for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said they had dealt with violence like pushing, punching or kicking this year.

ATL head Mary Bousted said some pupils had a “total disregard”for school rules.

They were as likely to be “overindulged middle class” pupils as disadvantaged ones, she added.

The teaching union surveyed 814 teachers and support staff at UK schools on the issue, and heard tales of violence in the classroom.

More than half said they felt behaviour had worsened in the past five years.

One teaching assistant at a state primary in England said: “A pupil once hit me in the back totally unexpectedly, because I asked her to put a book away. I was so winded and hurt that I couldn’t carry on that day.”

Another, at a school in Wales, said: “I had a female student threaten to kick the smile off my face, in front of the whole class.”

While a teacher at an English state secondary recalled “six boys refusing to work, throwing glue, pens, fighting and throwing books”.

When teachers were asked about the root cause of poor behaviour, three-quarters (72.9%) blamed a lack of positive role models at home.

And nearly two-thirds (62.7%) said that breakdown of relationships within a family was a main cause.

‘Lack of respect’Some 73% said pupils behaved badly because they were seeking attention from their classmates and 42% blamed neglect at home as a factor.

A member of a school management team in England said: “A change in pupils’ behaviour is not helped by the lack of respect that parents show towards staff in school – there is no wonder that some pupils are rude when this is what they see as a role model.”

Dr Bousted said: “A minority of children are very aware of their rights, have a total disregard for school rules and are rather less aware of their responsibility for their own learning and how to show respect to staff and other students.

“This can apply as much to overindulged middle class children as those from challenging families.

“It is not surprising to see that poor behaviour is often attributed to problems at home.

“Teachers need to work with parents to encourage good behaviour and parents should be acting as good role models by supporting staff and helping them create a more positive learning environment for their children.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Unless there is good behaviour in schools, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. We want to put teachers back in control of the classroom.

“That is why we are toughening up discipline powers so that teachers are better able to deal quickly with bad behaviour.

“Schools can now issue no notice detentions, we have clarified the guidance on use of force and we are giving teachers more search powers.”

Parents Ignore Computer Game Restrictions, Says ATL Union

Parents Ignore Computer Game Restrictions, Says ATL Union

BBC |March 26, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
Parents are ignoring age restrictions and allowing their children to play potentially damaging violent computer games, a teachers’ leader says.The Association of Teachers and Lecturers raises concerns about children spending hours a day playing inappropriate computer games.ATL head Dr Mary Bousted acknowledged such activities could be difficult to police.But added that parents needed reminding of their duties

Members of the union are due to debate a resolution at their annual conference in Manchester next week, which calls for tougher legislation with regard to such games.

‘Very serious’Dr Bousted said some of these games were “very violent” and could have an effect on “tender young minds of children and young people”.

And she was sure her conference would hear how parents are ignoring age restrictions of computer games.

She told reporters: “Of course, they’re extremely difficult to enforce, just like films, like TV.

“It’s about reminding parents and carers that they have a very real responsibility for their children and that schools can’t do it alone.

“It takes the very serious and labour-intensive business of proper care and attention of young children before they go to school and while at school to allow them to learn most effectively.

“If they’re up to 12 or one o’clock playing computer games, and coming to school exhausted, not interacting with other children, that’s not good preparation for school, and not good preparation for life.”

She added: “The fact that children spend hours locked in their rooms playing computer games, which means they’re not interacting, they’re not playing and not taking exercise.”

The motion calls for the union’s executive to commission research which will allow it to lobby government for the introduction of more “stringent legislation” on computer games.

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