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Ofsted plans website for rating schools

by Daniel White

A website which will allow parents to rate their children’s school and express concerns is among propos- als published by Ofsted this week. The inspectorate has launched a

consultation on proposed changes to the school inspection framework in England which will come into force in 2012. The website proposals, which

TDA figures show boost for science

Career-changers and women are swelling the ranks of new science teachers, with high calibre appli- cants increasingly securing places on teacher training courses. Figures from the Training and

Development Agency for Schools (TDA) show a surge in applica- tions for chemistry, with more women than men now applying to teach the subject, armed with top degrees. More than a third of all enquir-

ies to teach chemistry were from career-changers, notably from people leaving the finance and banking industries. At the same time, almost four out of 10 enquir- ies for biology and 45 per cent for physics also came from career changers, who had degrees in the subjects at 2:1 or higher. The figures suggest that pro-

fessionals are returning to the sub- jects for which they had a passion in their youth. The renewed interest in the

sciences comes at a time when the coalition is pushing the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) as a benchmark of success for pupils doing GCSEs. Students will have to pass two sciences in order to achieve the EBacc. Over the last seven years

there have been 14 per cent more women than men enquiring about teaching chemistry – 57 and 43 per cent respectively – compared with an eight per cent gap the year before. Last year, over half – 55 per cent – of new chemistry teachers

had a 1st or 2:1 degree, compared with 47 per cent in 2003. The TDA said it was working

hard to increase the numbers of other priority subjects, like phys- ics, where many more teachers are needed.There are 925 physics and 1,070 chemistry teacher training places across the country this year. Graham Holley, chief execu-

tive at the TDA, said: “It is truly exciting to see more people rec- ognising the attraction of teach- ing science, and actually doing something about it. “Teaching provides an excel-

lent opportunity for graduates to use their degree experience and creativity. It is crucial that we get the right calibre of people to teach such critical subjects, so that we can help to shape the future for the generations to come.” Ellen Weavers of the Royal

Society of Chemistry said: “Chemistry is central to tackling the global challenges we face – like sustainable energy, food and water – so it’s essential we have passionate chemistry teachers who inspire their students to help meet these challenges. “Knowledgeable and inspi-

rational chemistry teachers are more important to this country than ever before.” Professor Peter Main, director

of education and science at the Institute of Physics, said: “It is in school that a passion for physics is created and nurtured, and that can only happen with high qual- ity, enthusiastic teachers.”

are included in a 26-page consulta- tion document, would allow parents to answer a set of 10 questions about their school on issues such as teaching quality, achievement, behaviour and school leadership. Parents would be able to remain anonymous but would have to sub- mit an email address. The consultation document

states: “We intend to take greater account of parents’ views in helping us to decide when a school should be inspected. We are currently con- sidering new ways in which par- ents’ views about a school will be gathered regularly and not just at the time when it is inspected. “We propose to gather parents’

views by inviting them to answer a range of questions about their chil- dren’s school via Ofsted’s website.” However, unions voiced fears

this week that the plans could be open to “abuse and manipulation”. Chris Keates, general secre-

tary of NASUWT, said: “To hold schools to account on the basis of chatroom and internet gossip trivi- alises public accountability and the work of schools. “Such a system would be open

to abuse and manipulation and would therefore be an inappropri- ate and unreliable mechanism for triggering something as serious as inspection.” Brian Lightman, general secre-

tary at the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “Shifting the current inspection questionnaires to an online format would be a sensible move. “However, a national ‘rate my

school’ website will only give another avenue for a handful of disgruntled parents to circumvent established complaints procedures. It will not present an accurate or representative view of parents at a particular school.” The Ofsted consultation follows

the recent Education Bill which said that inspectors’ focus would be reduced to four key areas – pupil achievement, quality of teaching, leadership and management, and the behaviour and safety of pupils. The document states: “What

matters most is how well schools ensure high standards of achieve- ment, learning and behaviour for their pupils, as well as contribut- ing to their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. These aspects will be the guiding princi- ples for the new school inspection framework.” Under the new plans, outstand-

ing schools will no longer be sub- ject to routine inspections unless concerns are identified, and the consultation asks for views on the factors inspectors should consider when assessing whether an inspec- tion is needed. Elsewhere, Ofsted is to with-

draw its Self-Evaluation Form from September 2011, but the consulta- tion document said it would be “critical” that schools continue to self-evaluate. The document adds: “Inspectors

will continue to take account of the quality of self-evaluation when judging leadership and manage- ment. We expect that schools should always be able to provide some summative evidence of self- evaluation, but there will not be a common way for schools to present this evidence.” The consultation is open for sub-

missions until May 20. For details, visit

Admissions debate rages

More students have been accepted into their first-choice secondary school this year, according to gov- ernment statistics. Admissions figures reveal that

84.6 per cent of children have been accepted to their first-choice school for this September, an increase of 1.4 per cent from last year. In addi- tion, nearly 96 per cent of children have been offered a place at one of their top three preferred secondary schools – up 0.7 per cent. However, one in six children

will not be attending their first- choice secondary school. The North East of England

had the highest percentage of first choices accepted at 94.3 per cent, with Greater London the lowest at 66.2 per cent. Schools minister Nick Gibb said

the figures highlight that parents still suffer anxiety when choosing a school for their children and that there are not enough “good” schools. He explained: “More than

79,000 children missed out on their first choice of secondary school and more than 22,000 did not even get into any of their top three schools. “These figures expose the fact

that there simply aren’t enough good schools. Too many parents are forced to choose between schools which don’t deliver the academic standards and good behaviour they demand. Only when every school is regarded by parents as a good school will we be able to remove the anxiety parents suffer when choos- ing a school for their children.” This year 512,000 children

applied for places in 151 local authorities in England. This was a decrease of 17,500 on 2010, but there were 1,200 fewer places available. Russell Hobby, general secre-

tary at the National Union of Head Teachers, this week has written an open letter to Mr Gibb expressing anger at the minister’s comments. He said that parents’ school pref- erences can be based not just on

academic standards, but on faith, location or ethos as well. He wrote: “It is impossible

to infer anything about perform- ance from the percentage of stu- dents who did or didn’t get their first-choice school. The statistics published would be equally pos- sible with any distribution of school performance, including universally outstanding. Quite apart from the fact that the data does not support your statements, I cannot under- stand why you would wish to make them in the first place.” Other unions were also angry.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “It’s insulting to schools, misleading to parents and completely disingenuous for a minister to draw the conclusion from these figures that there aren’t enough good schools in our system. “Just because a parent doesn’t get

their first preference does not mean that the school to which their child is allocated is somehow deficient.”

Ministry of Defence site to become education campus

A former military barracks in Northern Ireland has finally been handed over allowing six secondary schools to move onto the site. The North’s education minis-

ter Caitriona Ruane is supporting radical plans to transform the one- time Ministry of Defence site at Lisanelly in Omagh, Co Tyrone, into a shared education campus. So far, six schools say they are

interested in relocating. Secondary schools in Northern Ireland are being urged to collabo-

SecEd • March 24 2011

rate because of falling rolls, which have led to significant reduction in budgets. In addition, all post-primary

schools in the North must now offer access to a minimum of 24 subjects at GCSE and 27 at A level. Government policy also indi-

cates that secondary schools should operate with a minimum intake of 500 at age 11 to 16 and 100 in 6th forms. The development of an educa- tional campus could provide first

class educational facilities for more than 3,000 pupils in a more co- ordinated and effective way than is possible now. A previous attempt to pilot a

shared campus model in Co Antrim failed to win widespread support. There is, however, backing for

the Omagh project, which could contain secondary schools from both Catholic and state-controlled sectors. Ms Ruane says the campus opens up many possibilities to share

resources, which she says can only benefit the children and young peo- ple attending the schools. The latest development is

that the site has now been trans- ferred into the ownership of the Department of Education. “This is a visionary and inspira-

tional project which offers Omagh a unique opportunity to shape the future educational provision for all the children of the area,” Ms Ruane said. “Through collaboration and co-

operation, the schools in Omagh have the opportunity to improve the learning facilities and educational opportunities for their children. “The shared campus will pro-

vide the potential to build an edu- cational community where children can have access to concentrated educational expertise across a broad curriculum. All the schools involved will benefit from shared facilities while operating in an envi- ronment of equality, inclusion and promotion of mutual respect.”

NEWS In brief Financial standards

The Department for Education is seeking views on its plans to replace the Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSIS). Education minister Michael Gove abolished the FMSIS in November, and is now consulting on its replacement – the Schools Financial Value Standard. This applies to all maintained schools and takes the form of a series of questions which school governing bodies should formally discuss with their headteacher and other staff. The FMSIS was made compulsory in 2007. Schools were required to meet the standard every three years. Mr Gove said the self-evaluation tool was too burdensome. The consultation runs until April 30. Visit: SFVSconsultation

Labour review

Labour has unveiled a review of its school policy. A group of advisors has agreed to work with the shadow education secretary Andy Burnham and his team to help shape its policy in opposition. The group includes parents, governors, teachers, headteachers, and other experts and it will host public hearings in the coming months. Mr Burnham said: “There are difficult questions to explore, such as how we get the balance right between academic and vocational study, national clarity and local autonomy, and competition and collaboration.”

Financial education

A UK-wide inquiry has been launched looking at the level of financial education. It is being organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People and submissions are being invited by May 3. Led by MP Andrew Percy, a former teacher, the cross-party inquiry will produce a report on how to establish a consistent and sustainable model of financial education. The group is being supported by pfeg, the personal finance education group. Visit:

In the boardroom

Six children aged nine to 12 are to be invited to form a Tesco Board to help shape the future of the supermarket’s Schools and Clubs Programme. Entrants to the competition will have to make the case for why they should be “hired” through an online application. The winning students will also get 10,000 Tesco for Schools and Clubs vouchers as well as a laptop and digital camera. The deadline is May 20. Visit: www. kidsboard

Disaster resources

In the wake of the Japanese tsunami, the British Red Cross has produced teachers’ lesson plans focusing on the disaster. Teachers who sign up to the charity’s free online Newsthink service can download assembly and classroom video-based lesson plans. The resources look at the stories behind recent headlines, and provide teachers with activities, videos, photos and discussion triggers. Resources are also available on Libya and Haiti. Visit: www.


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