Monthly Archives: May 2017

GCSE English Literature exam paper error – Friday 26 May 2017

This week I report on the error in a GCSE English Literature exam paper, the release of the first part of the 2015/16 absence statistics and an analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility data from 2011 to 2015.

English GCSE exam error admitted by board
One of the country’s biggest examination boards, OCR, has admitted to an error in today’s English Literature GCSE exam, taken by around 14,000 students. The mistake related to a question on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which the family background of a key character, Tybalt, was mixed up. The question suggested he was a Montague when in fact he was a Capulet.

The examination board has apologised and in a statement said that it would put things right when the exam was marked and graded so no student needed to worry about being disadvantaged. An investigation will be taking place as a matter of urgency to see how this error got through their assurance processes.

Absence statistics for 2015/16 academic year
On 18 May, the Department for Education (DFE) released information on the absence rates in schools for the 2016 autumn term. Whilst the overall absence rate had risen slightly from 4.1% to 4.3%, with illness remaining the most common cause of absence, unauthorised absence for holidays has also made a significant contribution to the rise. The percentage of pupils who missed at least one session due to an unauthorised family holiday, rose from 4.2% to 5.0%.

This is the first set of absence statistics since the landmark decision by the High Court ruled in favour of the Isle of Wight parent that had challenged the regulations forbidding term-time absences for pupils except in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. A further appeal from the Government resulted in this decision being overruled and the DfE has said it is too soon to draw links between the High Court ruling and the unauthorised absence rate.

Report analysing teacher supply, retention and mobility
Yesterday the DfE released an analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility data from 2011 to 2015. Key findings included:

  • More teachers were leaving the profession – the teacher wastage rate (those who are either leaving the profession, retiring or going on maternity leave) increased in every subject, of which the overall rate went from 6.6% to 8.7%.  Physics, where graduates with a first-class degree are now offered £30,000 tax-free bursaries to train in, had either the highest or second highest wastage rate in each year between 2011 and 2015.
  • The EBacc has caused a slump in new Drama teachers – entrant rates increased in every EBacc subject except Biology, where the rate fell by 0.1%. However, the biggest drops were found in non-EBacc subjects, mainly in Drama which had a 1.4% decrease.
  • The most newly-qualified teachers (NQT) were in EBacc subjects – whilst the overall number of NQTs remained relatively stable the rate was highest in Maths, English and the sciences and ‘core’ EBacc subjects – classics and History.
  • Teachers on permanent contracts were most likely to stay in the profession – teachers and leaders with permanent contracts had higher retention rates, both in school and in the system. Retention rates also increased with age and experience were higher outside London and in schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
  • Most teachers stay within commuting distance when moving schools – around 70.0% of all teachers who moved between 2010 and 2014 moved 25 kilometres or less. Secondary teachers were more likely to move a greater distance than primary teachers, and men were slightly more likely than women to move a greater distance, but the variation was likely to be because primary teachers were disproportionately female.

General Election manifestos education pledges – Friday 19 May 2017

With Parliament dissolved and the election soon upon us, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at the three main Parties key education pledges which were published this week.


Conservative Party education pledges

  • End the ban on selective schools and continue the free schools programme, aiming to build 100 new ones each year
  • Prohibit councils from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either Inadequate or Requires Improvement
  • Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools
  • Increase overall schools budget by £4bn by 2022 and ensure no school is worse off as part of the new funding formula
  • Open a specialist maths school in every major city in England
  • Introduce a curriculum fund for developing knowledge-rich materials
  • Expect 75% of pupils to have entered EBacc subjects by the end of the next parliament, with 90% by 2025
  • Offer forgiveness on student loan repayments for teachers to help retain them within the profession
  • Create a jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies to reduce costs and help with recruitment
  • Offer free school breakfast to all primary school pupils and scrap universal infant free school meals
  • Introduce mental health first aid training for teachers in all schools
  • Replace rules preventing the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools
  • Create more nurseries by introducing the presumption that all new primary schools should include one
  • Deliver a world-class technical education by replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with the new T-levels

 Labour image

Labour Party education pledges

  • Create a unified National Education Service (NES) as one of the “central institutions of fairness” for the 21st century
  • Introduce a fairer funding formula which would leave “no school worse off”
  • Reduce class sizes to less than 30 pupils for all 5, 6 and 7 year olds
  • Introduce free school meals for all primary school children
  • Abandon baseline assessments and review KS1 and KS2 SATs
  • End the public sector pay gap and consult on introducing teacher sabbaticals and placements with industry
  • Give teachers “more direct involvement” in the curriculum
  • Reduce “monitoring and bureaucracy”
  • Reintroduce national pay bargaining for teachers
  • Undo the requirement for schools to pay the apprenticeship levy
  • Extend schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children’s mental health
  • Deliver an inclusive SEND strategy and embed it more substantially into training for all school staff
  • Extend free childcare to 30 hours for all 2 year olds
  • Scrap tuition fees in England
  • Reintroduce maintenance allowances

Liberal Democrats Party.png

Liberal Democrats Party education pledges

  • Scrap grammar schools plans and devolve all capital money for new school spaces to local authorities
  • Introduce a fairer National Funding System with a protection for all schools
  • End the 1% cap on teachers’ pay rises
  • Extend the free school meal programme to all primary school pupils
  • Introduce 25 hours of high quality CPD by 2020, rising to 50 hours by 2025
  • Tackle teacher workload by reforming Ofsted inspections and focusing on an evidence-based approach
  • Allow Ofsted to inspect academy chains
  • Introduce a curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum
  • Prioritise primary progress measures instead of floor thresholds and work with the profession to reform tests at age 11
  • Provide training to all teaching staff to identify mental health issues
  • Amend the Ofsted inspection framework to include promoting wellbeing as a statutory duty of schools
  • Improve links between employers and schools, encouraging all schools to participate in employment and enterprise schemes



DfE intervention following parents’ complaints about this year’s SATs – Friday 12 May 2017

In a quiet week in the run up to the General Election I report on the DfE’s monitoring of social media to prevent parents from revealing some of the question in this year’s SATs papers and the publication of the APPG for Education’s report on how well schools prepare children for the future.

DfE’s intervention follows parents’ complaints on social media about questions in this week’s SATs assessments
Parents have been reprimanded online by the Department for Education (DfE) for tweeting answers from their children’s SATs exams. This week, Year 6 children have been taking tests in reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) and maths.

0fficials appear to be monitoring social media in a bid to clamp down on cheating. The DfE’s official Twitter account has warned against publishing answers, as some Key Stage 2 pupils are still due to sit the assessments.  It wrote: “Some children will be taking the KS2 tests next week using timetable variations. Please help us to keep the test content secure. Thank you.”

The plea followed a series of interventions against disgruntled parents who had aired concerns about questions in the tests.

APPG for Education report – schools preparing children for the future
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education has published a report on their inquiry on how well schools prepare children for their future.

Examining changes in the labour market and the necessity for basic literacy and numeracy skills, the report emphasises the need for children and young people to also have “soft skills, character and resilience” as well as the increasing demand for skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers.

The report also explores the importance of high quality employer engagement, work experience, and careers education in terms of “levelling the playing field” for young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The inquiry found that that a rising number of schools were struggling with increasingly limited resources, meaning that time and money are not being focused on areas crucial for a young person’s future life chances, such as good quality careers guidance or “soft skills development”.

The inquiry recommendations include:

  • that the Government reinstates mandatory work experience
  • careers advice and guidance should always be provided by a “qualified, independent and impartial counsellor”
  • children with SEND must be “more visible in debates around careers provision”
  • the Government should allocate additional resources to schools for the explicit purpose of providing careers advice

Governing bodies to have the power to remove elected parents and staff governors – Friday 5 May 2017

This week I report on changes to constitutional arrangements for maintained schools giving governing bodies the power to remove elected parents and staff governors, provide further information from the DfE on the replacement for RAISEonline and highlight a new report on financial pressures facing some schools who are cutting back on mental health provision.

Changes to constitutional arrangements for maintained school governing bodies
Late last week the Government published the School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 which will enforce changes to the constitutional arrangements of maintained school governing bodies (including federated governing bodies).

From 1 September 2017, maintained school governing bodies will have the power to remove elected parent and staff governors in the same way as they can remove co-opted governors – that is, by majority decision of the governing body.

From 1 May 2017, any person who has held office as an elected parent or staff governor and removed from the governing body during their term of office, will be disqualified from serving or continuing to serve as a school governor for five years from the date of their removal.

Information on the replacement for RAISEonline
The DfE has released a video with information on the replacement for the RAISEonline service. The new “Analyse School Performance” service will be a “sister service” to the DfE performance tables. Unlike the performance tables, it will require secure access and governors should speak to their school about obtaining access from the secure access approver. Any access provided should be in anonymised form. The anonymised data will also be available to Ofsted, local authorities, multi-academy trusts and dioceses.

The service will allow governors and trustees to “view and analyse details on key headline measures” and compare performance at “school and pupil group level against national averages”. The system allows for both overview and in-depth reports (eg breakdown by pupil groups) on headline measures. The new system also allows users to use scatter graphs to identify trends over time. This will help governors to see if “their school development plan and priorities” are being translated into better results in key areas.

New report suggests schools are cutting back on mental health provision due to financial pressures
A joint report conducted by the Education Select Committee and the Health Select Committee urges the next government to review the impact of squeezed school budgets on mental health services. It also advocates more training for teachers when completing their initial qualifications and greater consideration of children’s well-being by school inspectorate Ofsted.

While it welcomed the Government’s commitment to making PSHE a compulsory part of the curriculum, the report suggested the promotion of well-being cannot be confined to the provision of PSHE classes.