Sunday, October 20, 2013

British graduates with conceded passes get £9,000 to be teachers as number of job applicants collapses

Graduates who scrape a third class degree are to be offered bursaries to train as teachers following a U-turn by the Education Secretary.

Funding for teacher training was withdrawn from anyone with the lowest class of honours degree two years ago because Michael Gove wanted to improve the calibre of applicants.  The move put England alongside high-performing countries such as South Korea and Finland which recruit top scholars.

But he has had to relax the ban in maths and physics because of a  collapse in the number of candidates.  There were 709 teacher training vacancies in maths last year – around a third of the total spaces available. The shortfall in physics was 386.

Under one of Mr Gove’s key reforms, thousands of graduates are now training in schools rather than going through a teacher training college.

Critics claim that this approach is too fragmented and making it more difficult to analyse the numbers going into different subjects and predict the correct number of trainees needed for different areas.

But supporters of the reform say that it allows schools a greater say in how teachers learn their craft - and removes them from the ‘damaging’ influence of Left-wing courses at colleges that favour trendy methods.

Mr Gove wants more than half of teachers trained in schools by 2015.

From next year, bursaries of £9,000 will be offered to graduates with a ‘relevant degree’ to entice them into teaching maths or physics.

They must also have a B grade or higher at A-level in the subject they plan to teach. The decision will add to concerns about the quality of teaching in classrooms.

Experts have previously warned that pupils are falling behind in subjects including maths at primary school because many teachers only have a GCSE C grade in the subject.

Earlier this month the Association of Teachers and Lecturers complained classroom support staff were increasingly being asked to stand in for teachers.

Mr Gove has also faced criticism from Labour for allowing academies and free schools to use unqualified teachers – even though the party’s education spokesman Tristram Hunt and his predecessor, Stephen Twigg, have both taken classes in their constituencies.

But there is increasing pressure for sufficient teachers in key subjects such as maths and physics since top universities indicated their preference for applicants with traditional A-levels.

Official figures show a surge in the number of teenagers taking them at GCSE and A-level.

An OECD report last week also revealed shockingly poor levels of numeracy in England compared with global rivals.

Bursaries are also being increased in maths and physics for trainee teachers with higher degrees.

Graduates with a 2:2 will be eligible for £15,000 instead of £12,000 and those with a 2:1 will receive £20,000, up from £15,000 - bringing them into line with applicants holding a first class degree.

Schools minister David Laws said bursaries were rising in other subjects – although candidates will continue to need at least a 2:2 degree to qualify.

Funding will not be available for low-priority subjects such as art and business studies.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Smaller bursaries will be available for graduates with a relevant degree and a good A-level in maths or physics who show real potential to be brilliant teachers.’


Judge strips boy of £3,000 payout for cutting his hand on water fountain in school scuffle with little brother

Schools cannot be a ‘hazard-free zone’ for children, a senior judge said yesterday as she stripped a nine-year-old pupil of £3,000 in compensation.

Appeal Court judge Lady Justice Sharp said schools should be reasonably safe for pupils – who ‘are inclined to lark around’ – but could not safeguard them against freak accidents.

She was ruling in the case of a schoolboy who successfully sued his local council for £3,215 in compensation after cutting his hand in a playground scuffle.

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision, saying the pay-out would mean ‘the law parting company with common sense’.

Nine-year-old Lewis Pierce sued West Sussex County Council for damages after an accident at St Andrew’s School in Nuthurst.

It arose when Lewis was sprayed with water from the fountain, which had been fitted in the playground earlier that day, by his seven-year-old brother, George.

Incensed, he lashed out but George ducked and Lewis hit the fountain instead. He cut his thumb and damaged a tendon, which had to be repaired by surgeons under general anaesthetic.

He made a full recovery from the accident in June 2010. The court heard that Lewis was ‘completely unconcerned’ by the 1in scar it left him with but his mother Annette began legal action on his behalf against the local education authority.

Lawyers for the family said the school had not carried out a proper risk assessment before installing the water fountain and claimed that Lewis’s injury was the result of negligence or breach of duty.  Brighton County Court agreed and awarded the schoolboy £3,215 in compensation last year.

But West Sussex took the case to the Court of Appeal and argued that the same model of water fountain had been fitted in schools throughout England and Wales without causing injury.

Iain O’Donnell, for the council, said schools might have to ban the fountains if Lewis was allowed to keep his pay-out, for fear of other potential claims.

He told the court that schools could never be completely free from hazards. ‘Any part of the premises, for example the corner of a brick wall, could be perceived as sufficiently sharp to cause a laceration if punched,’ he said.

The water fountain was ‘not unduly sharp to normal touch’ and Lewis’s injury was caused by his own ‘spontaneous and unpredictable act’, the Appeal Court heard.

Lady Justice Sharp said schools should take reasonable steps to ensure children’s safety, ‘bearing in mind that children are inclined to lark around’.

But she said they were not under a duty ‘to safeguard children in all circumstances’, adding: ‘The law would part company with common sense if that were the case.’

The Appeal Court ruled that the county council was not responsible for Lewis’s injury and warned that a ruling in his favour would have led to a legal obligation on schools to pad and protect every edge or corner on which a child could conceivably injure themselves.

West Sussex County Council hailed the Court of Appeal decision as ‘a victory for common sense’.

The legal costs of the original claim and the appeal will now have to be paid by the Pierces. The amount was not revealed.

Mrs Pierce, 36, defended the decision to sue. Speaking at her family’s £300,000 home in Cowfold, West Sussex, she maintained that it was ‘more than a simple case of a minor accident resulting from a spot of playground rough and tumble’.


Premature children should start school a year later: Study finds babies born early have 50% more chance of failing at reading and writing

A no-brainer, I would think

Some premature babies should start school a year late to give their brains time to develop, experts have claimed.

The call follows a study which found that boys and girls born early are 50 per cent more likely to fail the reading, writing and maths tests given at the end of their second year in school.

Children born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are also more likely to be diagnosed as having dyslexia, deafness and other problems that class them as having special educational needs.

However, the Bristol University study found that some of their learning difficulties are simply due to them starting school too early.

Campaigners argue that if they started school on the date they were due to be born, rather than the date they actually arrived, they would do better.

Children in England generally start school in the September after their fourth birthday.

This means that a child born several weeks prematurely on August 31 would begin a year earlier than they would have if they had been carried to full-term.

The researchers analysed medical and education information gathered on almost 12,000 children born in the Bristol area.  More than 700 were born prematurely.

Overall, the premature children were more likely to do badly in the tests given at the end of the second year of primary school.

Plus, 35 per cent had special educational needs.  This compares with the 23 per cent of their full-term classmates.

Strikingly, the study found that those children who were born close to cut-off date for staring school – and so started their education earlier than they would have otherwise done – did worse.

This suggests their problems weren’t solely caused by damage done by their early birth.  Instead their brains were still maturing and they might have done better if they’d started school later.

Researcher Dr David Odd said that up to one in six premature babies start school early.

He said: ‘It is easy to look at a premature child’s date of birth and think that is how old they are but they are not that old.

‘These children are going to school in some cases a year earlier than they would have done.

‘Development doesn’t speed up just because you are born earlier.  They still have to go through all the developmental stages.’

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONEalso showed that it was not just very premature babies that suffer, with some of those born just five or six weeks early doing badly when starting school.

Previous research has shown that summer-born children, who, like some premature babies, are young for their year, do worse at school and are less likely to get a place at university.

Wendy Ellyat, of the Save Childhood Movement, which believes children are being pushed into formal education too young, said: ‘It is now evident that not only are summer-born children particularly disadvantaged by an early start to formal learning but also pre-term infants – and we show that such early disadvantage is likely to then impact onto the whole of their school lives.’

Sir Al Aynsley-Green, a retired professor of child health and a former Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘Education experts must look at these data and argue for a change in policy so that the school entry age for children born prematurely is based on their expected due date rather than their premature date of birth.’

However, Dr Odd said that more research is needed to rule out possibilities such as premature children being stigmatised or bullied if they start school late.


No comments: