2013- unlucky for some

2013 in Education

This year saw so much change and controversy in education it’s hard to recall everything that has taken place. One thing that I can clearly recall is leaving my full time teaching position with another permanent member of staff to set up a high quality supply agency! I read and share daily about the various ideas, changes and  goings on in education and thought that now would be a good time for a summary of education in 2013.

This year saw Education minister Leighton Andrews step down, Welsh Education Minister that is (shame, I hear many teachers cry!). In January MP’s warned Gove of trying to do too much too soon, something that he has clearly taken on board!

Gove planned reforms for GCSE’s and A levels to start in 2015. The reforms will see a new numbered grading system, fewer resits, fewer tiered papers for different abilities and no ‘bite-sized modules’. In other words, back to traditional written exams. It is almost like the last 50 years in education haven’t happened! But as we know, most things in education do a full circle.

In May, Gove also proposed new SPAG tests (Spelling Punctuation And Grammar)to be introduced in September for all 11 year olds. The government have done this as ‘they want all children to leave primary school with a sound grasp of essential English skills,’ says a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson. ‘The test will put an additional focus on writing skills and encourage good teaching.’ This was later introduced in September of this year despite contention from Head teachers.

Elizabeth Truss, Children’s Minister proposed a relaxation on staff-to-pupil ratio in Early Year’s settings. She claimed that the aim of this was to improve availability and choice for families at a reduced cost. She also wanted to raise the qualification requirements needed. These suggestions were met with a strong lack of cross party agreement and in June, Nick Clegg announced that he had blocked plans by Liz Truss as his consultation had showed that her suggestions wouldn’t necessarily cut cost for parent’s or drive standards. This ruffled a few feathers.

Another major change was the introduction of the new National Curriculum with a much stronger emphasis on knowledge rather than skills.  The key changes are: year by year programmes, SPAG in years 1-6, a stretch in KS2 curriculum and no MFL in KS1. Schools were able to use this from September 11th 2013 but it will be made compulsory by September 2014. See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum for more information.

Gove continued to push for more free schools and 2013 saw the numbers double. There are now 653 primary schools, 207 secondary, 4 all-through schools and 50 SEN and referral units. Much to Gove’s horror, 7 established sponsored academies were warned to improve and an academy in Carlisle was placed in special measure for the second time in 4 years. E-Act who runs a chain of 31 academies were in the news and reprimanded by the Education Funding Agency after it was discovered that they had been spending a lot of their budget on expensive lunches and drink bills. Following this, the Director General Sir Bruce Liddington resigned.

In October we saw the reshuffle of Ed Milibands’ shadow cabinet in an attempt to sharpen up his team ready for the general elections in 2015. As a result of this, Stephen Twigg who was shadow education secretary lost his job in Labour’s top team to be replaced by Tristram Hunt. It was hoped by many that Hunt would provide vigorous opposition to Gove’s free school push. However, he disappointed on this front immediately by stating that he wouldn’t shut down free schools and labour then opened new ones called ‘parent-led academies’.

October the 1st and 17th also saw the teacher strikes organised by NASUWT and NUT. Hundreds of teachers went on strike over working conditions, pay and pension. These strikes resulted in hundreds of schools having to close for a day. More strikes were planned for later in the year but have been postponed until next year.

At the beginning of December, the Pisa tests taken by many 15 year olds across the world showed the UK to be no better than average in Reading, Writing and Maths. Two days before the results were published Tristram Hunt took to the papers to argue that the poor results were down to Gove’s ineffective policies. Gove responded by suggesting that the changes that he has made haven’t had long enough in place to have the desired impact yet.

In December, Discovery New School in Crawley were told that they would receive no more funding from April 2014. Al Madinah found themselves all over the news for their inspection in October which reported that the school was inadequate, dysfunctional and in chaos! Al-Madinah School was closed for three days on the first day of its inspection in October, while CRB checks were carried out on staff and the building’s security was verified, after which it was allowed to reopen. A monitoring visit last week reported that no progress that been made and the school had gone backwards.  Barry Day, chief executive of Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust has helped to come up with an action plan but will not take the school into his trust due to its financial problems.

Looking ahead to 2014…

There is further controversy with the Children and Families Bill as it plans for childminding agencies to be opened to provide an increase in parents’ choice. However, staff representatives have said that agencies would lead to lower standards as instead of the current individual child minder Ofsted inspections, the new system would see agencies under inspection but only on the support that they provide for their childminders and not the quality of care. Child minding agencies are currently being piloted around the country and this will result in a report in early 2014. It is feared that they will be introduced with insufficient trialling.

In 2014 children from poorer backgrounds could start school from as young as two! Early years teachers have branded this as ‘schoolification’. Pupils in reception classes will also face baseline assessments after 6 weeks in school.

Heads of infant schools must offer all pupils free hot lunches from September 2014. There are many concerns around logistics and financial implications of this.

With all of this in mind, I wonder what the statistics are of teachers joining and leaving the profession.

What will 2014 bring…


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