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Fears that more pupils will lose out on EBacc

by Dorothy Lepkowska

Concern is growing among headteachers that the current cohort of students in years 10 and 11 may be disadvantaged by the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) measure of achievement. They believe that government

emphasis on the small list of aca- demic subjects will affect the chanc- es of those who are already half- way through their GCSE courses, or chose their options before the new benchmark was announced. The latest concerns come amid fears that the approved list of sub-

jects is too narrow and contains anomalies. For example, while GCSEs in

foreign languages and science are included, applied courses in these subjects are not. Other rigorous subjects such as religion education also don’t count towards the EBacc. Last month, John Townsley,

head of Morley High School, in Leeds and chair of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) National Headteacher Steering Group, wrote to Michael Gove, the education secretary, commending him on the “positive development” of the Baccalaureate but seeking clarification on which

subjects are to be included in the measure. He said: “We are very con-

cerned that the new Baccalaureate should not disadvantage pupils who are already part way through GCSE courses that do not appear on the list approved for inclusion in the new Baccalaureate. “Large numbers of young peo-

ple completed these courses in the summer, or are part way through courses leading to exams next year or the year after. Schools offered these subjects in good faith, and young people took them on not knowing they might not form part of an important qualification which

Scottish teaching comes under scrutiny again

Scotland has embarked on a “funda- mental” assessment of the teaching profession with the announcement of a government-backed review. Professor Gerry McCormac,

principal of Stirling University, will chair the committee tasked with judging how effective the previous such study, the McCrone Review in 2000, has been. Among the key issues will

be recruitment of teachers and headteachers and whether current practices are best serving staff and pupils in the wake of the curriculum overhaul that was introduced at the start of this academic year. Education secretary Mike

Russell said: “A lot has changed in the past decade, most notably the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, which provides new challenges for teachers and pupils, and we need to ensure we continue to attract the right kind of people into the profession to deliver this new approach to learn- ing and teaching.” The cost and scale of the teacher

workforce will also be under scru- tiny as severe budget cuts come into force. Whereas in 2000 McCrone rec- ommended a 23 per cent rise in sala-

about £34,000 is also seen as prob- lematic given that the Chartered Teacher Scheme, which rewarded those with long experience if they earned the further qualification, is due to be axed. However, critics said the review

should add educational value rather than being merely about cutting costs. Ann Ballinger, general secretary

of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said the lack of jobs and increased workload had put off many potential recruits. A review of teacher training at

universities by Graham Donaldson, former head of the school inspector- ate, last month demanded improved teacher standards including literacy and numeracy tests for applicants. As for workload, the 35 hour

ries over three years, which boosted morale and made up for years of low wages, there is no such leeway today. Unemployment is rife among new teachers as councils cut back. The starting salary of about

£21,000 is seen as too low to attract many prospective teachers, particu- larly those already earning far more. Likewise, the classroom cap of

week maximum stipulated by McCrone has been shown to stretch by an extra 10 or 15 hours for most teachers. Again, the scope for cut- ting hours appears next to zero without additional recruitment, for which there is no money available. Professor McCormac will have

only five months to deliver his report instead of the nine allowed to his predecessor Professor Gavin McCrone.

Spending gap increases further

THE spending gap on education between England and Wales has grown even wider, new government figures have revealed. Welsh local authorities spend an

average of £604 less per pupil than authorities in England. Last year schools in Wales received on aver- age £527 less per pupil. Unions have described the fig-

ures, which come in the wake of a damning annual report from Wales education inspectorate Estyn, as “appalling” and “shocking”. Dr Philip Dixon, director of

the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru said the figures marked a low point in education spending in Wales. First minister Carwyn Jones

has pledged to make school fund- ing a budget priority. The Welsh Assembly government has also been forced to acknowledge that there is still work to do to raise standards, in light of the findings from Estyn.

SecEd • February 3 2011 In nearly one third of schools

standards are not good enough, according to Ann Keane, the chief inspector. Launching her first annual report as the boss of Estyn she said it was time to “face the facts” and “raise standards relative to other countries”. The report, which looks at the

progress of sectors across Wales’ education system over the last six years – the last “inspection cycle” – says that many pupils’ literacy and numeracy levels are not being developed fully. It supports recently-published

figures from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) which showed Wales has been slipping down the international education scale – falling well behind countries like Poland and Estonia in reading, maths and science. Mrs Keane said: “There are

challenges we need to tackle before education in Wales can rival the best in the world.”

The report found that 40 per cent

of children entered secondary school with a reading age below their chronological age. Just eight per cent of schools achieved the top grade across all aspects of inspection. In the secondary sector, while

there were several missed targets including a 93 per cent attendance record, there was also progress with a steady rise over the six-year cycle in the quality of teaching and lessons. Between 2004 to 2010 inspec-

tors identified 17 secondary schools as causing concern. Of these, five were in need of special measures, one was deemed to have serious weaknesses, and 11 in need of sig- nificant improvement. An Assembly government

spokesman said: “We welcome Estyn’s annual report which shows we are making progress in most areas. We acknowledge there’s still work to do to raise standards and will now consider the report in detail before preparing our response.”

Schools urged to work together to boost languages

Secondary and primary schools are being urged to work together to improve the uptake of modern lan- guages at GCSE level. It comes after a national sur-

vey of 2,000 schools in England – released by CILT, the National Centre for Languages – showed a continuing decline in those study- ing the subject at GCSE. The study revealed that while

four out of five secondary schools “receive significant numbers of pupils” who have studied a lan- guage at key stage 2, only 36 per cent have more than half of their students studying a language in year 10 – this has fallen from 41 per cent last year. Furthermore, the research

revealed that one in five maintained secondary schools only teach lan- guages for two years at key stage 3, reducing the learning time sig- nificantly. A statement from CILT said:

“The survey reveals that pupils’ lev- els of learning are not yet consistent and there is a continuing need for support and training for languag- es in primary schools and better planning and liaison in secondary schools to build on prior learning.” Elsewhere, teachers told CILT

that they are concerned about changes to the GCSE assessment regime which they feel have a “det- rimental effect on pupils’ motiva- tion and enjoyment of language

learning”. As a result, the survey found that around 45 per cent of maintained schools now offer alter- native accreditation to GCSE and A level. However, while feedback on

these qualifications is very posi- tive, this is tempered by concerns over their future viability if they do not count towards the English Baccalaureate. Linda Parker, director of the

Association for Language Learning, said: “We need to ensure that there will be opportunities for all pupils, regardless of their background, to follow suitable pathways in lan- guage learning throughout their secondary education. To do this well we will need highly trained teachers with good professional development opportunities and sup- portive school structures.” Kathryn Board, chief executive

of CILT, added: “This report sets out the gap to be closed if we are to rebuild provision for languages in schools where the subject has been pushed to the margins in recent years. However, in the context of the current curriculum review, it is important not be defeatist about the extent of this gap, but rather look to the many examples of successful provision as inspiring models of what can be achieved.” The survey also revealed that the

most commonly taught languages are still French, Spanish and German.

might improve their prospects in later life.” In a recent blog, Andy Birkett,

head of Hele’s School in Plymouth and chair of the SSAT Languages Headteachers Steering Group, said: “We need to prevent the creation of a ‘sub-E Bacc cohort’ group that falls between the most able and the ‘practical’ as Gove would describe it.” Meanwhile, Peggy Farrington,

head of Hanham High School near Bristol and a member of SecEd’s editorial board of headteach- ers, said: “You can’t start mess- ing around with courses that have already started because the govern-

ment has decided to impose some- thing retrospectively.” But she added: “At the moment

the EBacc appears to be little more than a performance measure for the government, rather than a qualifica- tion in its own right. “This may yet change, of course.

What is particularly interesting is that there has been a remarkable lack of comment about this from employers and universities. We have students applying to universi- ties and the offers are the same as ever. No-one is talking about the EBacc. Until they see it as impor- tant or as having some currency, then we are not going to worry.”


In brief Apology

Last week, SecEd reported the views of teachers and headteachers on the national curriculum review announced by the government (Curriculum plans are ‘baffling’ and ‘flawed’, SecEd 273, January 27, 2011). The article mistakenly referred to Graham Small as headteacher of Churchfields School in Swindon. Mr Small is in fact the school’s learning resources manager. We would like to clarify that the views expressed in the piece do not reflect the views of the school and are simply the personal opinion of Mr Small. We would like to apologise for this error and any confusion it has caused.

Overseas offer

The recruitment deadline for the English Language Assistants programme has been extended to February 28. The scheme sees the British Council work with partners overseas to provide opportunities for young people to work as language assistants both in the UK and countries around the world. The aim is to improve both the language ability of the students and their cultural awareness. Countries still available are France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland (German-speaking only). Visit: languageassistants

Peer Factor

The House of Lords has launched a Lord Speaker’s competition for 11 to 16-year- olds. Entrants are being asked to nominate an individual who they think has the “Peer Factor” and should be a member of the House of Lords. Run with the Hansard Society, the competition aims to get students thinking about the function and membership of the House of Lords. The competition deadline is May 6 and the top three entries will be presented by the students to a distinguished group of members of the House of Lords. Visit: holcompetition

Anti-bullying help

The Anti-Bullying Alliance has launched its School and College Network, a subscription scheme that offers schools and colleges access to tailored anti- bullying information, support and services. The service offers annual support packs and other materials. The Alliance is a coalition of more than 80 organisations and it has also produced a new website – Tools for Schools – that brings together a bank of classroom resources relating to bullying such as lesson plans, assemblies and toolkits. Visit www.anti- and

GTCE change

Members of the council of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) are meeting this week to discuss the appointment of a new chief executive after existing boss Keith Bartley stepped down to take a new role in education in Australia.Mr Bartley has been chief executive since January 2007 and will leave at the end of March. The GTCE was one of the first education bodies to be axed by the government, but is still to operate until March 2012.


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