What is it to be in schools – competition or cooperation?

20 Apr

Many eons ago, as the education officer for schools in a London local authority, I was given strict instructions not to promote competition among youngsters – especially in sport.  The reason?   It was important to build the self-esteem of all pupils.  Putting pupils in a “lose” situation would deflate them.   The concept of winners and losers was anathema.  All must have prizes.

Zafar Ansari, the Surrey cricketer and Cambridge graduate with a double fist in politics and sociology had decided to retire from the sport at the tender age of 25. He was struggling to cope with the competitive ethos in cricket which he intensely disliked.

Ansari wrote in the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: “It goes without saying that competition is a foundation of sport: to be competitive is clearly an advantage, providing the mental framework to maximise the chances of success. Yet, as my career progressed, I felt uncomfortable conducting myself in this way. This feeling emerged, in part, from a broader left-wing perspective, which informed my approach to life.”

He was also wary of “a professional culture that treated the uncompromising pursuit of victory as essentially virtuous.” Ansari has now quit professional cricket and is working for Just for Kids, a charity which supports underprivileged children, while studying to become a lawyer.

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Damian Hinds’s possible educational agenda for English schools

20 Apr

Damian Hinds was appointed Education Secretary on 7 January 2018, when Theresa May reshuffled her Cabinet.  He replaced Justine Greening, who turned down May’s offer to become the Secretary for Works and Pensions. Hinds rose from being a Whip to Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury then on to the Department for Works and Pensions as Employment Minister before taking on his current job.

Educated at the voluntary aided Roman Catholic Grammar School, St Ambrose College in Altrincham, Cheshire, he went on to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford, securing a first-class degree. During his stay, he was elected President of the Oxford Union Society.

He was elected to Parliament in 2010 from East Hampshire, re-elected in 2015 and then in 2016 – increasing his majority from 56.8%, to 60.7% to 63.6% of the votes cast.

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Education, Health and Care Plans replace Statements, but all’s not well with provision for vulnerable children

20 Apr

To comply with the Children and Families Act 2014, pupils who have profound education needs began to be assessed from September 2014 to receive Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).  Since then and till March 2018, EHCPs were maintained alongside statements of special needs – the predecessor system. Statements had been issued prior to the 2014 Act and abandoned on 1 April 2018.   For more on the subject, see the SEND Code of Practice.

Young people aged 16-25, who had severe learning disabilities, were assessed and given Learning Disabilities Assessments (LDAs).   The LDAs were converted to EHCPs by 1 September 2016.

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Andria Zafirakou, Alperton Community School, bags the Global Teacher Award

20 Apr

I        Ms Zafirakou’s pedagogic journey and achievements

The Global Teacher Prize in 2018 was won by Ms Andria Zafirakou, an art and textile teacher at Alperton Community School in the London Borough of Brent.  She was deemed to be the best – having been pitted against 30,000 entrants from 173 countries.

The odds were stacked against her succeeding, but Andria defied them. Working as an art and textiles teacher and member of the senior leadership team, she was tasked with earning the trust of her pupils and their families and understanding the complex lives they led.  She redesigned the curriculum across all subjects from scratch – carefully working alongside other teachers – to have it resonate with her pupils. She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir and created alternative timetables to allow girls–only sports that would not offend conservative communities, leading the girls’ cricket team to win the McKenzie Cup.

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Education’s Conundrum: How does the ethos of faith schools and academies square with British values?

20 Apr

In England, we have a conundrum at education’s heart in England, according to Clare Foges, former speech writer of David Cameron.   Prime Minister Theresa May wants children to be taught British values while at the same time encourages segregation, by allowing the proliferation of faith schools.

I        Background to the creation of faith schools/academies

A considerable number of the 24,000 state schools and academies in the country already belong to one faith or another.    State-funded faith schools were established by Rab Butler, the Conservative Secretary for Education, in 1944.  At that time, the Church of England educated 20% of children and Roman Catholic Diocese 8% funding the education through fees and/or religious subsidies.    Several faith schools were in a state of disrepair.  Following difficult negotiations during the Second World War, they became state funded but the religious bodies continued to control their admission arrangements.  The plans to convert them into state schools gestated for nearly four years, in the run-up to the Education Act 1944.

The freedom given to the Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants to semi-control their own schools was later extended to the Jewish community and, following the influx of East African (South-East) Asians (who had dual citizenship) into the country in late 1960s and early 1970s, Muslim, Hindus and Sikh schools began to mushroom.

The two main providers of faith schools today are the Church of England and the Catholic Education Service.   There are various state-funded institutions, including voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and faith academies.  In 2014, roughly 22% of state schools/academies in the country were faith institutions – about 6,210 altogether. Broken down by religion, their numbers in 2014 were as follows.

  • 4,395 Church of England
  • 1,661 Roman Catholic
  • 36 Jewish
  • 9 Muslim
  • 5 Sikh

These numbers mask additional ones established under the Free Schools scheme.  They opened over the last few years and are permitted to take up to 50% of pupils belonging to the faiths that the founders espouse.

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Home Education: A Chestnut

20 Apr

I        The law on home (elective) education

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 places the responsibility of children’s education squarely on their parents’ shoulders. Parents are required to ensure that their children are receiving efficient, full-time education suitable to their ages, abilities and aptitudes, including those with special educational needs, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.  This means that they determine where to arrange for their children to be educated – at school/academy or at home – up to the school-leaving age.

Government guidance on elective (home) education, published in 2007, states a parent may choose home education for one or more of the following reasons.

  • Distance or access to a local school
  • Religious or cultural beliefs
  • Philosophical or ideological views
  • Dissatisfaction with the system
  • Bullying
  • As a short-term intervention for a particular reason
  • A child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school
  • Special educational needs
  • The parent’s/parents’ desire for a closer relationship with the child.

Where parents decide to withdraw their child from school/academy and educate her/him at home, they are required to notify the school/academy. The school/academy must, in turn, notify the local authority (LA).  Parents don’t need to notify the LA unless their child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).  Similarly, parents of a child who has never attended school are not required to inform the LA if they decide to home educate their child.

The rise in suspect practices – leading either to radicalisation and/or depriving children of their right to receive an education to develop all their talents and help them to live full, happy, healthy and productive lives – has alarmed many.   Accordingly, Lord Soley, a former prison officer and current Labour peer, has sponsored a Bill that will introduce greater monitoring for home-schooling (elective education).  Home-schoolers are not happy bunnies – stating that the Bill will be an “unmitigated disaster” and could “cost lives”.

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Minding the Gender Pay Gap

20 Apr

According to Helen Ward of The Times Educational Supplement (TES), “The gender pay gap data returns are shaping up to create some of the most explosive spreadsheets the education sector has seen for years. Unions are even warning that the revelations could upend the female-friendly face of teaching, with some schools harbouring pay gaps way above the national average.”

By 31 March 2018, all public bodies (including schools, academies and trusts each of which has over 250 employees) had to submit to the government data on the mean pay gap, the median pay gap, the distribution of men and women across the pay scale, and the differences in the number and size of bonus payments.     For the private sector (including private schools), the data was submitted by 5 April 2018.

It is likely that this will be the subject of another league table.  However, the legislation permits local authorities to exclude data on their schools’ employees. Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) with over 250 employees, however, will be in a bind to engage in yet more bureaucracy.   It was Harriet Harman, during the “reign” of Gordon Brown, who introduced the legislation which was supported by Prime Minister Theresa May.   The gender pay gap data is opening our eyes to an egregious aspect of inequality. To understand the reasons for this, there may be merit in giving our researchers time and space to study and analyse the figures.

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