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Relationships, Sex and Health Education

12 Aug

Relationships, sex and health education becomes compulsory in secondary schools and academies from September 2020.  For primary schools the requirement will be to teach relationships and health education.   While academies do not have to follow the national curriculum, they must pay due regard to the advice of the Department for Education.

(1)       What is compulsory for schools

Schools will be required to teach the subject matter at different stages.  However, when and how the subject is taught will be left to governors, headteachers and teachers.

All schools (whether primary or secondary) must have written policies on how they plan to teach relationship and sex education. They must consult parents when developing the policies, make copies available to members of the public who request them and display the policies on their websites.

Schools must take account of the religious backgrounds of all pupils when planning the teaching.  They have to comply with the Equalities Act 2010 and must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of age, sex, race, disability, religion/belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy/maternity, marriage/civil partnership or sexual orientation.

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Educational choices at 16+ vis-à-vis T Levels and Apprenticeship

18 Aug

I        The Wolf Review

Readers will recall that in October 2010, Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary, asked Alison Wolf, the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College, to carry out an independent review of vocational education for the 14-to-19-year olds – especially how it could be improved to promote successful progression into training routes, higher education and the labour market.

The review focused on

(i)         institutional arrangements;

(ii)        funding mechanisms including arrangements for who bears the cost of qualifications;

(iii)       progression from vocational education to work, higher education and higher-level training; and

(iv)       the roles of the third sector, private providers, employers and awarding bodies.

Wolf’s key recommendations were as follows.

(i)         Young people should be given incentives to undertake the most valuable vocational qualifications pre-16, with the removal of many vocational qualifications that existed to the detriment of core studies.

(ii)        The government and providers should introduce principles to guide young people on study programmes leading to post-16 vocational routes to ensure that they were gaining skills which led to progression in a variety of jobs or further learning, so that those who had not secured good passes in English and mathematics GCSEs continued to study these subjects.

(iii)       The government was to ensure that there was a system for evaluating the delivery and content of apprenticeships so that young people had the right skills in the workplace.

(iv)       The government was also to ensure that the regulatory framework moved away from accrediting qualifications to regulating awarding organisations.

(v)        There was to be a requirement that all qualifications offered to the 14-to-19-year-olds fitted within the Qualifications and Credit Framework because its absence had had a detrimental effect on their appropriateness and left gaps in the market.

(vi)       FE lecturers and other professionals should be permitted to teach in schools, to ensure that young people were being taught by those best suited to do so.

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Ofsted Annual Report 2015/16

1 Jan


Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), published his fifth and final Ofsted annual report on the education system in England on Thursday, 1 December 2016.  He retired 30 days later.  In presenting the report, Sir Michael said “a world class education system is within our grasp – but only if serious capacity challenges are urgently addressed”.

Sir Michael stressed that a north/south ‘geographical divide’ meant the ablest pupils in the North and Midlands were less likely to reach A/A* at GCSE. He said: “Standards can only truly be considered high if they are high in every part of the country and for all pupils regardless of background or ability.”

However, his report is, in the main, positive.    The country’s schools/academies, he avers, had made progress over the last five years. Educators could be justly proud.  “Young people are getting a better deal than ever before,” he said.  School/academy leaders responded well to the changes in the system.  The decision to replace the “satisfactory” judgement with “requires improvement” led to schools/academies upping their game, making a greater effort ensuring that pupils are offered the very best possible education.     Of the former 4,800 satisfactory primary schools/academies, 79% were now good or outstanding and, of the previous satisfactory secondary ones, 56% were good or better.

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Developing children’s financial nous

28 Aug

The love of money is the root of much evil, but money, per se, makes the world go round.   Maslow would, in all probability, have placed money at the base of his triangle of human motivation – an essential for meeting physiological needs, which includes food, water, warmth and rest.  The best things in life may be free – such as the air we breathe, the songs of birds that we hear and the happiness emanating from the good life.  However, to appreciate these, human beings need food, water and creature comforts, which are not available unless humans have enough money.

It is sad, therefore, that in the United Kingdom, we have accumulated a national debt of £1.5 trillion – a debt that we will be expecting our children, grandchildren and future generations to pay back to the world.  And this debt can increase.

Schools/academies are suspect for not devoting sufficient time to teaching pupils/students how to manage money. Why else would so many, in a straw poll of 2,500 students between the ages of 11 and 16 carried out by The Times Educational Supplement (TES), list financial themes among the 100 things they would like to do before they finish their schooling such as “Learn what to do if you are in debt”, “Learn how to save money” and “Learn about taxes, mortgages and rent”.   In short, they are keen to learn how to survive (if not flourish) in the world of austerity that they will face. Continue reading

Character Education: Is it the Holy Grail to Academic Success?

9 Apr

I           Resilience

One of the recent preoccupations of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been “character education”.   This is unsurprising, given that Michael Gove, current Justice Secretary and her predecessor, made both, the curriculum and examinations and tests more rigorous causing young people to stress out.  Accordingly, she has been investing time and resources in seeing how children could be made more resilient.

Children in the United Kingdom grow up in a cosseted environment.   Surfaces on which they play must be safe; they are not permitted to go out into the streets to ride their bikes or kick balls in case they are kidnapped and abused by paedophiles or run over by cars.   So outside play is replaced with inside tablets; and I am not talking about pills.   A March 2016 poll revealed that 6-to-11-year-old children spent less time outside than the daily hour allowed to prisoners.

And if they do not know how to look after themselves, children are not developing the character tools they need – such as resilience or buoyancy – to negotiate the hidden dangers on the road of life or to survive failures on the road to success.   They have truly become the “snowflake” generation.  This is why Mrs Morgan is keen to foster resilience and character education.

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Number of young people not in education, employment and training rises

25 Aug

In June 2013 it became a statutory requirement for young people to remain in education and/or training up to the age of 17.  The education/employment-training compulsory age was raised (again) in the summer of 2015 to 18.   However, the law does not make arrangements for any one particular body to police the system leave alone take sanctions against the young people to flout the law.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that there is a substantial number of 16-18-year-olds not in education, employment and training (NEETs).  The number of NEETs, in fact, rose in England from 6.8% in 2014 to 7.1% in 2015.   However, the number of 16-year-olds remaining in education rose.

In the years leading up to 2008, the year of “financial bust” the percentage of NEETs fell but from 2008 to the current year it has risen.

It is anticipated that with the economy becoming increasingly buoyant and government supporting employers who hire apprentices, the picture of young people in education and/or employment will improve over the coming years.

Meanwhile, a senior Cabinet Office source informed The Times that the government will be announcing plans to require all 18-to-21-year-olds to attend 71 hours of training classes at Job Centres in the first three weeks of claiming out-of-work benefits.   The scheme will begin in April 2017,

The training will include practising job applications and interview techniques. Those attending will undertake extensive job searches alongside dedicated coaches with whom they will continue to work throughout the first six months of unemployment.

The Education of Summer-Born Children – Keeping Pace with Others

9 Dec

A child in this country is said to be of a particular school age when it is calculated from 1 September of one calendar year to the 31 August of the next.    In some other countries like India, the academic year coincides with the calendar one.

The statutory school age for children in England and Wales is in the term following her/his fifth birthday.  However, most local authorities admit children into the reception age group at the beginning of the academic year in which they turn five.

For summer-born children, this means that they are only from a month to three of having turned four years old. In some cases, children have their birthdays in the latter half of August, which makes them exceedingly young when they start main schools.  In the early years the rate of development is hugely more than the rate at which children develop in the primary and secondary phase.  By the time a human being comes to the age at which this writer is, development virtually ceases if not moves backwards.

Accordingly, parents are concerned that a very young reception pupil – i.e. someone who has just turned four – will be left behind the rest of the class in the learning that is going on.   So what can be done?  Continue reading

New curriculum takes off on 1 September 2014

25 Aug

I           What is the Curriculum?

A new national curriculum is being implemented from September 2014 in all maintained schools.  However, academies and free schools may plough their own furrows.  Notwithstanding, the law requires that all institutions, including academies and free schools, offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced and which “promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils” in schools and within society and prepares them “for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”.

Despite the problems of time-constraints, the guidance has made explicit that “the school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils” and the national curriculum forms only “one part of the school curriculum”.

In addition to devising an eclectic curriculum, every school must also make arrangements for a daily act of collective worship of a wholly or mainly Christian orientation – unless exempt from doing so by the local Standard Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) – and “teach religious education to pupils at every key stage”.  Secondary schools must also have on their timetables Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).   Each school should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHEE), based on good practice.

Maintained schools, with the exception of academies and free schools, are subject to a legal requirement “to follow the …..programmes of study, on the basis of key stages, subject content for those subjects that should be taught to all pupils”.  A school may go beyond this and include other subjects or topics of its choice in planning and designing its own programme of education.   However, every school must publish its curriculum by subject and academic year on-line. Continue reading

How important is vocational education?

24 Apr

The National Curriculum will change from September 2014.  A notable feature is that it is a much slimmer document than the one set by previous government.   The focus will be on the acquisition of knowledge.

In mathematics, children will be expected to know their tables and all about fractions.  They will be required to take the subject up to the age of 18. In English, there will be a much greater concentration on phonics, grammar and punctuation.   There will also a requirement for pupils to imbibe scientific knowledge across all the key stages.  In design/technology, pupils will be exposed to various aspects of technology, including robotic, computer aided design and coding.

Schools will be expected to prepare for the new curriculum in ways that they think best. No more will government take an active part in “rolling out” as they famously appear to be have done in the past – their ways of delivering the curriculum.  The mandarins in the DfE have stressed that government will not dictate the How – only the basic What.   Even in regard to the latter, it will be up to schools to expand this slimmed down curriculum to embrace learning in an holistic form.

What appears to be absent from the discourse is the inclusion of vocational education, the Cinderella of the curriculum. Continue reading

Plans to establish “Career Colleges” receive the green light

2 Jan

On 15 October 2013, Lord Kenneth Baker, Margaret Thatcher’s secretary of state for education who spearheaded epic reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s, unveiled plans to establish pioneering “career colleges” for 14-to-19-year-olds that had the approval of Matthew Hancock, the skills minister. The colleges will offer vocational training in a range of subjects including digital technology, construction, catering and healthcare. These will build on his network of successful university technical colleges which specialise in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.  Continue reading