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Academy figures lead to criticism

The row over academy schools ignited again this week after fig- ures were released showing that more than 200 have opened since the coalition came to office in May last year. Official statistics show that

204 academies have opened in England under the coalition, with 203 having already opened under Labour. Out of the total of 407 acad-

emies, there are 371 secondary schools, representing 11 per cent of the total state secondaries. A further 254 schools in

England have applied for acad- emy status, the Department for Education (DfE) said this week. Academies are publicly fund-

ed, independent schools, free from local authority control. Under the previous govern-

ment, the academies programme focused on underperforming schools, but education minister Michael Gove wants to turn the majority of schools into acad- emies in his drive to create more “autonomy”. The news once again brought a

backlash against the scheme. Andy Burnham, shadow education sec- retary, criticised the coalition’s expansion of the programme. He said there is “no international evi- dence” that the system will raise standards overall. He added: “The government

is basically saying to schools the only way you can get extra resources is to take part in this ideological experiment in the schools system in England, so they are giving many headteach- ers no choice. “But there is no international

evidence to show that the move to a more divided and competi- tive education system will raise standards overall.” Chris Keates, general sec-

retary of the NASUWT, also slammed the government for putting schools under pressure to convert to academy status. She added: “The pres-

sure schools are facing from the Department for Education to convert to academy status is proving to be a huge distraction from focusing on teaching and learning and, in some cases, is causing major rifts between gov- ernors, parents, staff and school leaders.” Mr Gove said: “Schools are

taking up our offer to become academies because they recog- nise the huge benefits of being an academy – more autonomy, more power to teachers, and an opportunity to thrive, free from interference from government.”

Formula could see £1m funding swing

by Daniel White

Schools could see swings in fund- ing of up to £1 million a year under the proposed national funding for- mula, researchers have claimed. A study from the National

Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) – School Funding and the Pupil Premium – has exam- ined the existing variations in fund- ing between and within different regions and considered the likely impact of the new pupil premium. The report is based on financial

data from 2008/09 and looks at the average per-pupil funding received by schools, based on their location and in-take. However, it says that despite these factors, “significant variation”

remains between schools, which could be down to how money is distributed by local authorities. Researchers found that around

200 mainstream secondary schools in England receive over £750 per- pupil more than would be expected, while a similar number receive lower levels of funding – in excess of £750. The report states: “These varia-

tions could disappear under a nation- al funding formula, thus producing significant winners and losers. “To place this in context, for a

typical school with 1,000 pupils, the impact would be swings in fund- ing of the order of £1 million per annum.” Researchers also slammed the

new pupil premium as being “less radical than first appears.”

This is because the £430 pre-

mium will “only add to a substantial pre-existing premium already asso- ciated with pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM)”. The £430 per-pupil premium is

to be allocated to all students eligi- ble for FSM, but the research shows that these pupils already attract an additional £4,000 per year. It states: “Even ignoring the

question of where funding for the premium comes from in relation to the overall schools’ budget, the new pupil premium is less radical than first appears.” Researchers also raised con-

cerns at the lack of restrictions on money intended for FSM children. It said that existing FSM funding is being spent “quite differently”. It shows that 39 per cent of the exist-

ing FSM funding is spent on class- room staff, with 15 per cent being spent on external costs and nine per cent on premises costs. “It would appear that schools

are using the additional funding to top up their budgets across the board including areas not likely to directly benefit FSM pupils,” the report states. Ben Durbin, an NFER senior

statistician, said: “In particular (this report) highlights the tensions that have to be managed under any new approach: between a system which is fair and transparent and one which recognises the uniqueness of individual schools; between finan- cial autonomy at a local and school level, and the desire for funds to be spent consistently with central government priorities.”

Council mounts campaign to snare £1.1m in pupil premium funding

A council has launched a major campaign to try and secure its schools more than £1 million in extra funding from the govern- ment’s new pupil premium. The £430 per-pupil premium is

to be allocated to all students eli- gible for free school meals (FSM). However, the move has focused

attention on the thousands of eligi- ble parents who do not register their children for FSM. In a bid to secure maxi-

mum funding for its schools, Middlesbrough Council last week launched a campaign called Don’t Bin It – There Could Be Money In It. The aim is to get parents to fill in the forms if they think they qualify. Schools in the authority alone

are missing out on a possible £1.1 million. It has 6,000 students registered, but it is believed a fur- ther 3,000 pupils qualify but are not signed up. Every school age child in the

town is being given a letter to take home, advising their parents of the scheme and asking for informa- tion to establish their entitlement by a deadline of next Thursday (January 20). Ray Mallon, Middlesbrough’s

mayor, asked parents to fill in the forms whether they believed they qualified or not. He explained: “It’s no secret

that we have some of the most deprived wards in the country, and the cuts being imposed on us by the coalition government aren’t making those problems any easier to tackle.

NEWS In brief Online careers

An online game which helps young people to plan their future careers has been launched by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. “MeTycoon” allows players to investigate a wide range of career options and learn both the key qualifications and also the wider skills and aptitudes which jobs and careers will require in the future. Players create an online character, which moves through a virtual life making choices and developing skills along the way. More than 130 video clips of real people in different careers are available to view. Visit:

Poetry corner

An online poetry reading group which will be open to everyone has been launched by the Poetry Book Society. The society was founded by TS Eliot and friends in 1953, focusing on bringing the best new poetry to keen poetry readers. Each month, The Online Poetry Reading Group will offer two choices – these will be contrasting books, ranging across time and format to include a varied and more mainstream selection of poetry anthologies, single author collections and classics. Visit: www.poetrybooks.

Heads together

A series of forums looking at education in the UK and helping schools share knowledge in providing the best start in life for Britain’s school children kick off later this month. The forums, called Headroom, are being hosted by charity FILMCLUB, with the first event on January 27 asking a group of headteachers to discuss the recent education White Paper. The event takes place from 1pm to 5pm in central London. Contact FILMCLUB to get involved. Email: sabrina@

We have lift-off “But we can ill afford to pass up

the money that is still on offer, and £1 million would go a long way to making some of the great schools we already have even better still. “I’d urge any parent or guardian

to fill in the form even if they’re not sure about it – there’s no shame in it, and they could be making a very important contribution to the future prosperity not only of their children, but of the town as a whole.” The education minister, Michael

Gove, has said that every pupil enti- tled to FSM (those with a household income of less than £16,000) will be entitled to the £430 premium, with headteachers deciding how it will

be distributed to improve learning. The money amounts to £625 mil- lion in 2011/12 with it increasing to £2.5 billion by the end of 2014/15. In 2011/12, the pupil premium

will be allocated to those pupils eligible for FSM but the govern- ment hopes to extend the premium to students that had previously been on FSM by the end of 2012/13. Mike Griffiths, headteacher at

Northampton School for Boys, said that schools needed to make sure parents were not being put off by the supposed stigma attached to FSM. He told SecEd: “Some parents

do not take up entitlement, but we have no idea who is entitled but

declines. What needs to be empha- sised is that with modern technolo- gy no-one – teachers or other pupils – need know you are a ‘free school meal’ person. “In our case, the free school

meal youngsters simply have the appropriate amount added daily to their school account, and they use the ‘cashless catering’ system along with everyone else.” Jo Smiths, vice-principal and

Long Field School in Leicestershire pointed out that FSM parents also qualify for paid school trips as well, which is something schools should make clear in a bid to convince parents to register.

Call for more spontaneous language speaking

Teachers in secondary schools should allow students to speak more spontaneously and provide good opportunities to develop read- ing when teaching foreign languag- es, Ofsted has said. A report, Modern Languages –

Achievement and Challenge 2007/10 – saw inspectors visit 92 primaries, 90 secondaries and one special school over the last four years. They concluded that student

opportunities in secondary schools were often limited by teachers’ “unpreparedness”, which hindered students’ ability to listen and com-

SecEd • January 13 2011

municate in the language. This led to students being unable to respond to “everyday requests”. Opportunities to use a language spontaneously were also too few. In more than half of lessons

observed, inspectors said that students’ progress was generally good or occasionally outstanding. However, teaching did not bring the language to life for pupils, they claimed. The numbers choosing to study

modern languages in key stage 4 have declined since the subject became optional at GCSE in 2004

– falling from 61 per cent in 2005 to 44 per cent in 2010. The report also said teaching in

key stage 4 was focused on achiev- ing “good” examination results but did not always prepare students suf- ficiently for study at post-16 level. Chief inspector Christine Gilbert

said: “Too many students are failing to reach their potential and do not choose to undertake more advanced study beyond 16 because of the way they are taught languages in many secondary schools. “Secondary schools should ensure their students get regular

opportunities to speak and read real- istic material in the target language so they build the confidence to use their skills in the world beyond the classroom.” The coalition hopes to raise the

amount of people studying modern languages by including it in the new English Baccalaureate. However, Christine Blower,

general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that at sec- ondary level, languages are among the subjects most severely affected by “piecemeal changes” to the sec- ondary curriculum. She labelled

the decision to make them optional “mistaken”. She added: “The opportunity

should exist for all children to learn a modern foreign language up to and beyond 16. Many young peo- ple may well regret in the future that they didn’t take a foreign lan- guage.” The report recommended teach-

ers should use more “authentic” materials to develop students’ lan- guage skills and their intercultural understanding. Read the full report at 3

The Science Museum launched a range of free new resources during the recent Association for Science Education annual conference. Among the resources is the new Climate Science Resource, which has been inspired by the museum’s new Atmosphere gallery. There are also a new range of key stage 3 teaching products available to buy, including “Launchbox”, which allows students to investigate science themes covered in the museum’s Launchpad gallery, while working together to build their own energy transfer machines. Visit: uk/educators

New exams chief

Exams watchdog Ofqual has appointed Glenys Stacey as its new chief executive. Ms Stacey replaces outgoing chair Isabel Nisbet and will take charge from March. She is currently chief executive of Standards for England, a non- departmental body responsible for promoting ethical standards in local democracy. Ms Stacey said: “2011 brings growth and development for Ofqual, with an education Bill and a new international focus. It brings the expected challenges as well, in the delivery of the awarding season and the changes to GCSEs this summer.”

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