Wednesday, July 01, 2015

UK: Hundreds of coasting schools face being turned into academies to 'shine a spotlight on complacency' in middle-class areas

Academies are the British version of America's charters.  They are more recent than charters but have already made bigger inroads than charters -- and many more coming, it seems

Hundreds of coasting schools face being turned into academies over the next Parliament under tough criteria announced today.

The Department for Education will introduce strict new rules in a bid to ‘shine a spotlight on complacency’ at under-performing schools.

The measure is expected to hit schools in middle-class areas which have high-attaining intakes but simply focus on raising pupils over the C-grade borderline.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said such schools may be failing to ‘stretch every pupil’ and have so far fallen under the radar.

Schools which fail to meet new standards on progress and attainment over the course of three years will be classified as ‘coasting’ and face intervention. Up to 900 primary and secondary schools are estimated to be coasting – with hundreds more expected to fall below the standard over the next Parliament.

Once identified, the so-called ‘coasting’ schools will be asked to formulate a plan for improvement. If this is found to be unsatisfactory then the school will be converted into an academy.

Turning schools into academies frees them from local authority control, making them directly answerable to the Department for Education.

The Government argues academies drive up standards by putting more power in the hands of head teachers and cutting bureaucracy.

The plans are aimed at incentivising schools to stretch bright pupils instead of simply focusing on those sitting on the C/D border.

Mrs Morgan said: ‘For too long a group of coasting schools, many in leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities, have fallen beneath the radar.

‘I’m unapologetic about shining a spotlight on complacency and I want the message to go out loud and clear, that education isn’t simply about pushing children over an artificial borderline, but instead about stretching every pupil to unlock their potential and give them the opportunity to get on in life. I know that schools and teachers will rise to the challenge, and the extra support we’ll offer to coasting schools will help them do just that.’

Under the DfE’s criteria, secondary schools will be considered coasting if they have fewer than 60 per cent of pupils obtaining five A*-C GCSE grades including English and maths, and have a below average proportion of pupils making expected progress.

At primary level, coasting schools will have seen fewer than 85 per cent of children achieving level 4 in reading, writing and maths and a below-average proportion of pupils making expected progress between the ages of seven and 11.

The coasting schools will be offered help from the Government’s education experts to produce a plan for improvement, which will be assessed by a Regional Schools Commissioner.

Teams of expert heads will also support improving schools, but those deemed unable to improve will be turned into academies under new leadership.

The new measure, introduced through the Education and Adoption Bill, could see schools which have been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted identified as coasting. David Cameron said last week: ‘Some schools are giving children “just enough” to avoid falling beneath our floor standards. But frankly “just enough” isn’t good enough for my children, and it shouldn’t be for yours.’

However, the plans have been questioned by teaching union leaders. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the criteria were ‘muddled’.

He added: ‘If the Government wishes to introduce such a measure it should surely be entirely on the progress that pupils make, rather than attainment.

‘As we have said previously, academisation is not a magic wand. Schools in challenging circumstances require individual support which takes account of their specific situation.’


U.S. Dept. of Education Celebrates Same-Sex Marriage Decision With Rainbow on Facebook

On Friday, just two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling giving homosexuals the “right” to marriage, the Department of Education posted an altered image of its logo that included a rainbow – a symbol that has become synonymous with the gay rights movement.

The Facebook message says: “U.S. Department of Education changed their profile picture,” without any additional remarks.

The profile photo has since been changed back to the blue, white and green logo.

The post garnered more than a thousand comments, most of them critical, including a woman from Alabama who wrote:

“This picture from the US Department of Education made me instantly angry. What you should have been doing all along is educating our youth given equal opportunities. But you take the legalization of gay marriage to show gay pride colors. Department of Education, send someone down here to Alabama. I will take them by the scruff of the neck and show them more than 20 examples of inequality in education that has nothing to do with gay or transgender rights.

You can't even get the art of teaching the basics of English, Reading Comprehension, or Mathematics done. We have fallen way down the ladder among the world's countries in educating our youth. So right now, it seems flying these colors are more important to you. It might be the right time to disband your department and return oversight of education back to the states.”

Fox News reported in 2012 that Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed his support for same-sex marriage.

“Another top Obama administration official appeared to break with the president Monday by publicly declaring his support for gay marriage -- something President Obama has not done,” the report said.

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a television interview Monday morning, said unequivocally that he supports gay marriage,” the report states. “Asked if he thinks gay couples should be able to legally marry, he said: ‘Yes, I do.’”

The White House was lit with rainbow colors on Friday in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling.

“Tonight, the White House was lit to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to progress and equality, here in America and around the world,” the White House said in a statement. “The pride colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and tonight, these colors celebrate a new chapter in the history of American civil rights.”


UK school leavers 'the worst in Europe for essential skills', report says

British school leavers are the worst in Europe for 'essential skills' needed to complete entry-level jobs in business, a new survey revealed.

Four in ten of firms polled in the UK felt that candidates for junior jobs lacked "functional skills, basic literacy and numeracy", compared to 18 per cent of European firms.

The disparity is partly explained because firms in Europe spend more time than the UK in liaising with schools on the skills they need in the workplace, according to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), which carried out the survey.

Noel Tagoe, executive director of CIMA Education said: “In the UK the school and the work systems are divorced from each other and this leads to schools not providing the subjects companies need.”

However, he said the situation was different in the rest of Europe. He said: “In Germany, for example, there is a causal link between schools and the workplace and firms are involved in getting schools to know the skills firms needed.” He said that as a result productivity tends to be much higher too.

He added: “The divide between employers and educators remains vast, raising the cost burden on British firms and holding back the productivity of the workforce. The realities of the workplace must be better reflected in the classroom through discussion and practical experience."

The poll also showed that a lack of essential skills in new hires is affecting the performance of firms with a third of firms taking more than two months to fill junior roles and three quarters of UK school leavers requiring significant training.

More than 90 per cent of firms in the UK said that their workload had increased as a result of skills shortages, with 46 per cent agreeing it had caused a fall in departmental performance.

CIMA polled 1,700 financial professionals in the UK and Europe and it focused on skills shortages for finance teams.

This isn’t the first time the gap in skills between the UK and Europe has been highlighted. A report published last year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed a sharp increase in the number of UK school leavers going on to university failing to translate into higher levels of basic skills.

The OECD report revealed that just a quarter of British graduates had top-level reading compared to roughly a third in other European countries, including the Netherlands and Sweden.


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