The same week the vast majority of teachers have moved against high stake primary school testing such as SAT's via a ballot of members at the UK's largest Education Union another news piece has surfaced indicating that the majority of Head teachers are against mandatory baseline testing of primary school children on entry to primary school.
54,500 primary school teachers voted en-mass against the SATs means of testing as it negatively impacts children’s mental health and puts schools under undue pressure to hit benchmarks the government can hold them accountable to. Nick Gibb, the school standards minister however said that this number doesn’t even represent half the profession and that the tests had been around since 1990 and are designed to improve the standard of teaching in our schools.
Despite Gibbs insistences it seems the general consensus from head teachers is that the government are insisting on mandatory tests in order to measure the schools progress and an initial test to be used as a yardstick from which progress can be measured. However head teachers have argued vehemently that the £10 Million it will take to implement the newly proposed baseline testing for primary school joiners is completely unnecessary and the pitfalls of introducing this system include labelling children who speak English as a second language or those with SEN needs could be "unnecessarily labelled as low-ability"
“We already have an appropriate baseline that does not take staff too much time,” one teacher wrote. ”The baseline is used to identify gaps in learning and development for the staff to support the child, not locked away for seven years.”
Research carried out by staff at University College London’s Institute of Education surveyed 288 head teachers and only 8% of which spoke positively about the suggested testing regime due to become mandatory in 2020.
Some head teachers suggested some schools will “game” the system by underpreparing pupils for the baseline test in order to show greater demonstrable improvements when the government revisits and measures against the initial results.
Jill Robinson of More Than a Score who commissioned the head teacher interviews said;
“Heads agree with education experts and parents: this scheme is a waste of everyone’s time and a waste of £10m,”
“It has no basis in academic theory or even simple logic. It is simply another way for the government to judge schools, using unreliable and unfair testing methods.
“A batch of reception pupils will be used as guinea pigs when they should be settling into school and the government still can’t tell us how they’ll use the data which will be extracted from these four-year-olds.
“It’s time for the DfE to admit failure and halt the roll-out of this pointless and damaging experiment."
Parents tried to oppose the plans via a legal challenge however this was overturned at the high court.
A spokesperson for the DfE said that the baseline checks are simply standardising the way schools carry out their own baseline checks.
“We are confident that the reception baseline assessment will lighten the load for schools, which will no longer have to carry out whole-class assessments at the end of year two, or deal with the test papers and administration that comes with that, while also being stress-free for children.
“We have been listening carefully to feedback we have received throughout the development process to ensure we get the experience right for pupils and schools.”
We are certainly in a time where education staff are at odds with the government as to the best way to measure the success of UK education standards and one way or another change is going to be required to find common ground between both parties’ priorities. A SATS strike occured this year and the majority of voting teachers at the large union meeting had voted in favour of this action so from one year to the next our children could be having vastly different experiences.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) staged the boycott which meant that nearly 200,000 children missed the SATs. This inconsistency is without a doubt not in our children’s interest in this writer’s opinion however if it results in the reduction of high stress testing of our young learners then it may well be what they call a necessary evil.
Wherever you lie on this issue we'd love to hear from you in the comments or via out social channels.
BBC Panorama has reported that an Academy head ordered her staff to cheat on Sat’s tests.
Suzanne Barham spoke to TV documentary Panorama and details how she was instructed to provide the answers to pupils that were struggling in the 11 year old test environment.
"We were told to go and work with specific children and to give them a little help.
"That's what happened, those children were given answers.
"You know it's not what should happen. You know it's the wrong thing, it's not going to help the children."
Citing a fear that she would lose her job if she didn't do as instructed Barham told Panorama she also was ordered to change test scores at three schools in 2017.
The Academy is effectively being dissolved and enveloped by another trust. Silver Birch says the current trustees cannot be held responsible for its earlier actions.
The trusts chief Exec Patricia Davies allegedly also ordered Barham to help children cheat in a reading exam.
"Mrs Davies called me into her office, and it's a reading paper, so you can't read it to them, and she said, 'I want you to read it for them'.
"I said, 'but it's a reading test.' She went, 'yes, I know'.
"You did what Pat told you to do, otherwise, you knew you wouldn't have a job, and so I read that paper."
Parents understandably were not happy to hear about the cheating. One Mother was stood at the gates when children came bounding out delighted they had been allowed to cheat
"The boys were quite vocal, as they thought it was funny, they thought it was hilarious: 'We cheated, we cheated, they let us cheat'.
"They were skipping up the hill screaming it out."
Startlingly the Standards and Testing Agency have investigated the allegations of cheating and let the results stand. The BBC have written about one girl who witnessed a teacher walk up to her desk during an exam and point at an answer saying "That’s the answer" the girl said “I was so annoyed. I just looked at her like, 'what are you doing, this is a test'."
Barham explained that the trust gave her sheets of paper with the actual results on and specific results scrubbed out with a request to change them in order to falsify and inflate how well the school was doing.
She resigned when the academy was taken over by another trust.
The academy is closing due to financial issues.
Labour and the Lib Dems have pledged to abolish Sat’s testing in favour of teaching “not to the test.”
A ballot of 54,000 primary school members of the NEU showed that 97 percent backed the campaign to scrap the tests which have been heralded as damaging to children’s mental health due to the high pressure environment and anxiety inducing process.
The criticisms of Sat’s testing often come from the fact that they exist as a means for schools to be measured against one another as opposed to having the welfare and education of the pupils at the forefront.
“Test-driven primary assessment is damaging children’s mental health and wellbeing; it intensifies the stress on teachers. Preparing children for Sat’s squeezes out other parts of the curriculum.”
- Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU
The Department of Education has launched a competition to develop early years "edtech" apps which will be designed to develop literacy, language and communication skills to kids.
The winning apps will be offered to families for free in 12 underprivileged areas of the UK as part of a DfE pilot scheme.
"We want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use." – Kemi Badenoch, education minister
The DfE said it wants parents to “think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their young children”.
The apps content will need to meet educational standards and offer progression through levelling up in difficulty. They will also be designed to stimulate personal interaction.
Kemi Badenoch said "we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.”
One in four children leave reception without key communication skills and the winning apps should be designed to combat this.
The areas selected for the pilot were chosen based on the proportion of children achieving below the national level for literacy, and include Brent, Enfield, Halton, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Sandwell, Stoke-On-Trent and Tower Hamlets.
With iPads becoming commonplace in the school and household, and screen time sessions at all time high this writer believes that being conscious of the content our children are engaging with can only be a good thing and would hope to see the winning apps offered universally for free instead of specific households or regions in order to benefit as many children as possible.
I know how difficult it is to find an app for free that doesn’t contain masses of adware or tricks to try and get the user to buy or subscribe to a service so I’ll be hoping to see this pilot be deemed a success and hopefully winning entries getting some real estate on the app store.
5 hours ago TES reported that Number 10 has lined up boxer and team England squad member Elena Narozanski as Head of Education at the Downing Street policy unit.
Narozanski is a former adviser to Michael Gove. She was a Children and Schools adviser whilst the conservatives were in opposition. Following the 2010 election she was appointed special adviser to the new education secretary before becoming Gove’s chief speechwriter in June 2011
She also worked as a policy adviser to Theresa May, was head of the New Schools for London Programme and worked on the vote leave referendum campaign. She has neither confirmed nor denied the news of her appointment.
Downing Street refused to comment on appointments.
Boris Johnson has stated in a sky news interview that he plans to reverse education spending cuts and he believes that providing a great education is the job of the state. He talks about readdressing the balance across the country and giving more rural communities with less funding the same opportunities and resources as more well funded communities. He also mentions he interprets the Brexit vote as an indicator that this is the peoples will.
Sky’s Sophy Ridge seems to question Johnsons promises that that he would invest more money into schools, more money into transport, investment in full fibre broadband for every UK household and put 20,000 more police on the street as a pipe dream given the likelihood that additional spend would in fact increase taxes however Boris claims there is money available and that certain tax cuts would in fact generate income.
"It is no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you. There is no such thing as Government money. There is only taxpayers' money." - Margaret Thatcher
This could well be politicians being politicians and making numerous promises during the election battle but as funding for schools is at an all-time low the fact that the conversation shines a light on the education sector is at least itself promising.
The current state of play with regards to school funding has many school incapable of offering SEN pupil’s places and are turning them away as a result. It means a lack of funding for teacher training resulting in an increase in expulsions and the ever prevalent overcrowding of classrooms.
This year classes now have on average one extra pupil per teacher in them compared to last year. Whilst this may not seem like an extravagant increase if the lack of funding schools are suffering from currently continues these figures can only worsen.
The 4% funding cuts to spending per child budgets have meant that many schools are opting to expel their most vulnerable cases as they lack the intrinsic resources and training to react to poor behaviour from vulnerable young people with a more holistic and proactive approach.
Pictured abaove, a new social enterprise called 'The Difference' has been set up to offer a sort of education special forces. Their aim is to raise the status and expertise of those working with vulnerable learners: in Alternative Provision, and in mainstream.
41 children are excluded in the UK every day whilst 85% of children in the criminal justice system were once expelled. These figures shine a startling light on a problem people just aren’t talking about enough. School funding cuts has our education centres letting down our most vulnerable learners.
If elected Johnson said he plans to roll back education cuts implemented by George Osborne in 2015. The Conservative leadership frontrunner said he would give England's schools budget a £4.6bn boost per year by 2022/23 if he enters Number 10.
The former Foreign Secretary said: "The 2016 referendum result was a clear cry from many people that they have been left behind. As Conservative councillors and members all over the country know, for too many years, schools in rural regions have received much less funding than schools in other parts of the country."
Labour spoke out against the claims. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said "Even today’s supposed pledge doesn’t come close to reversing all the cuts that the Tories have imposed on education, let alone match Labour’s plans to invest in a national education service."
The Guardian has also written a scathing retort to the claims saying that old Etonian Johnson has on numerous times spoken out in favour of grammar schools and wouldn’t have dreamt of sending his own children to state schools. The full write up in included below in our sources.
The Metro in April wrote about how Eton college is to receive an 80% tax reduction due to its status as a charity being a tax avoidance loophole whilst soe state schools are now so underfunded that they are asking parents to pay for pens, pencils and toilet paper.
Unfortunately politicians say lots of promises and this ine is clearly not without its critics but at least the conversation is finally on topic. Education needs a large financial boost to catch up with the growing class sizes and the increased need for training to keep up with our ever expanding cultural differences and children’s mental health needs.
Johnson plans to reverse education cuts: https://news.sky.com/video/boris-johnson-wants-to-spend-on-education-11751391
The Guardian -
Ending exclusion: specialist teachers trained to support most vulnerable
The Difference https://www.the-difference.com/what-we-do
Eton College gets 80% tax break while state schools are ‘at breaking point’
Protests has sprouted up across the UK against funding cuts for Special Educational Needs support in schools. 28 towns a cities played host to rallies and marches including London, Leeds and Birmingham.
These national rallies are the first of their kind in the UK. One of which was led by Emma Parker whose son James has spent over two years out of school in the last five as a result of sanctions, reduced timetables and exclusions.
An issue we wrote about in our article here is that schools who are underfunded for SEND support typically end up relying on sanctions to address issues they could be tackling in a more proactive manner. A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs are statistically more likely to be expelled and sent to isolation rooms.
“We have thousands of children across the UK who are not in schools, who are on reduced timetables and who don’t have access to the schools that they desperately need,” Parker said.
Her son James Parker delivered a 13,000 signature petition to end the "spending crisis" on SEND in schools.
Emma & James Parker.
Ministers for the Department of Education (DfE) commissioned a review last march and concluded that schools are using expulsions to get rid of students they fear may drag the schools results down and insisted that head teachers take responsibility for students who they have excluded from school.
The Dept. of Education released stats within the last fortnight which explained that SEND students have increased by 11% from last year alone. That’s a whopping 34,200 children that schools have to accommodate with limited funding and training to do so.
The TV presenter Carrie Grant attended and spoke at one of the rally’s describing her experience of attaining support for her four children with special needs as "shocking to say the least"
“The world that they [disabled children] face is a world that is just not ready.” - Grant
Children with special needs and excellent grades are being rejected from attending 6th form colleges with education centres claiming they just do not have the funding to support them. With local Government Association estimates a £500M deficit between what UK schools and education centres need and what they currently receive.
Last year Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice said
“The system for supporting children and young people with SEND is verging on crisis. Against a backdrop of increasing cuts to local authority budgets, parents are having to deal with poor decision making on the part of local authorities"
Standing Desks Help Schools With SEND Pupils
Hundreds of UK schools are turning to standing desks to help provide stimulating and safe learning environments for kids with ADHD and similar special needs which find them with excessive energy. Schools wishing to trial our Eiger student standing desk can request a try before you buy trial right here.
Ministers have promised an extra £250M towards SEND but campaigners argue this still leaves a huge deficit and a severely unsolved problem.
The Guardian Oct 2018 // Special needs pupils being failed by system 'on verge of crisis'
The Telegraph May 2019 // Schools must be held accountable for results of excluded children
Chronicle Live March 2018 // Meet the autistic 11-year-old boy who the council can't find a school for
Schools are being encouraged to sign up to the Playground Challenge to raise money for Soccer Aid. The idea being that pupils help to design an outdoor assault course and fun sporty activities like headmaster penalty shoot-outs or teacher versus parent footy matches are held to raise money for UNICEF.
“The kids loved the Playground Challenge so much we organised a whole Soccer Aid for Unicef week. Every class took on the obstacle course, we held a pupils vs teachers/parents football match, a keepy-uppy challenge and loads of other activities.” Alex, Head of Sports, St Dunstan’s RC Primary School, Manchester
School can use whatever they have available and indoor or outdoor assault courses are used by thousands of participant schools to join in. The activities get the kids thinking about other countries and cultures and helps them understand that not everybody has the opportunity to learn and play as they do. Money raised is distributed to foreign countries in the form of various kits.
- £172 could provide a preschool-in-a-box, full of toys, games and books to help children learn through play.
- £375 could build a whole community playground in Zambia so that 100 children can play.
- £1,124 could provide a tent for a temporary school or clinic to help children live safe, healthy and happy lives.
This kind of fundraising has so many plus sides. Giving kids some social awareness by using the assembly plans to introduce them to relate-able case study’s whilst reaping the positive physical and mental health benefits of getting the whole school outside and moving seems like an no-brainer to us and we encourage schools to join thousands of others and sign up for a free playground challenge kit here
Until the 23rd July Money raised will also be matched pound for pound by the UK government so your schools donation could potentially have a real effect on children throughout the world.
Apples push into the education sector has hit the headlines again as Metro has written a rather glowing account of their education tech designed to bolster creativity and coding skills with free classroom apps and a 9.7inch iPad designed for school pupils. It seems Apple is aiming to make the iPad as essential as the calculator once was in schools.
Apple has combined these Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create iPad focused curriculum apps with a classroom app that allows teachers to keep an eye on their students iPad use and track them effectively whilst providing feedback and guidance.
Simon Pile, the Assistant Head teacher at Anson Primary School in London explained ‘iPad allows me to create a curriculum that is engaging and relevant, to give every student a voice…It gives students the opportunity to have a personalised learning journey that is packed with creative opportunities.’
Remember this? It was essential until the calculator came along.
Now apples push into education could be seen as a cynical attempt to get our children hooked on iPad tech from an early age – almost positioning the iPad as an essential learning aid. Their efforts to romance schools isn't without its critics however Apple claims their motivations are entirely altruistic and not at all focused on reaping a return on investment by turning our children into future brand consumers by exposing them to Apple tech as early as possible.
Here at IWASD we would suggest that children are already hooked on technology and amidst the NHS guidelines that screen time should be reduced its hard to see a case for implementing more tech and screen time into the children’s school day however at the same time we actively encourage schools who seek to find new creative ways to get their pupils using real world experiences and getting off the bums and away from their desks to learn lessons.
It seems nobody has asked the question of apple as to whether they believe they are compacting the problems associated with greater screen time in our children. For example we recently reported that excessive screen time is now linked to 12 deadly cancers in children. So whilst the short term desire to have our kids embrace tablets to get out and about might in fact have a detrimental effect on them culturally if they grow up plugged into the matrix one has to wonder how will they ever leave it?
Amid a landscape where childhood obesity is soaring and MacDonald's being delivered to schools in the UK, instead of sycophantic articles sucking up to multi billion pound brands heralding their tech as having a positive influence on our children's development without regard for reporting on any downside instead it would be nice to for once acknowledge that we live in a world where our teachers can come up with methods for students to get interested and get active without the aid of a screen based devices luring them to do it. They've been doing this for years. Apple didn't invent going outside.
Lets make time to promote our teachers who aren't using tech as a crutch and who's own creativity and diversity of their lesson planning lets them come up with a reason to get outside other than an app. Lets's promote physical literacy alongside technological literacy and importantly lets start listening to the expert advice to reduce screen time for our children instead of embedding it into our children's daily lives so inextricably as building it into the curriculum.
Apples push into schools makes our children early adopters exposed to the Apple brand and be more likely to become future consumers. Apple want the language of computing to have iPads in the scope and it's not beyond this writers imagination that their education programs are designed to familiarise the next generation with their tech for cynical reasons. Whilst their big brand sway has media outlets clamouring to flatter them in the process it's hard to see how they will fail. Brands are the new idols and bloggers are the new evangelists so just keep an eye open for objectivity amongst the sea of honeyed words.
The traditional image of school classrooms with identical desk seating in rows is fast becoming obsolete in favour of a bold new choice of classroom design. One that encourages choice and ownership of the space for students. We are talking about the growing trend that is flexible seating.
As part of a district wide classroom redesign in Kansas, Tescott Elementary have joined a number of other schools in the USA who are empowering students by introducing flexible seating options for its students.
So what is flexible seating? A growing concept of creating learning spaces wherein children take turns going first picking their preferred seating in the classroom, children select from a list of possibilities from traditional seats, wobble stools, floor mats, standing desks, crate seats, metal chairs, rocking chairs and various other teacher selected options all reflecting the character of individual class types and teacher preferences. The options encourage a relaxed mind-set and ensure students vary their physical positions throughout the day in the hope to benefit their productivity and learning.
"Flexible seating is an opportunity for students to select their best learning seat within the classroom,” said Abell, who has been teaching for 13 years. “In my classroom, they select a seat first thing in the morning according to our seating line up (number order). That way, each student gets an opportunity to be the first to pick first at least once a week.”
Rachel Ehlers, first grade teacher at Tescott Elementary said "We felt the students would work better if they were allowed to work not only at their own pace, but also in their own comfortable positions."
The school principle Steven Kimmi explained that the move to flexible seating isn’t just designed to make school more fun but to ensure they provide the best possible learning space tailored to each individual student.
“Flexible seating was designed to give students choice, physical health, comfort, collaboration, and commitment to learn,” she said. “Flexible seating allows students to choose their best learning space for the day and allow them comfort to collaborate with others if needed to have the best learning experience in our school.”
Feedback from parents and teachers have been incredibly positive, one parent commenting that the space felt like home and Abell points out the students are demonstrating greater focus and pride as they are being given the extra autonomy to decide their own seating for the day.
Eiger Student Standing desks can be integrated into flexible seating designs in schools. Eiger and iwantastandingdesk.com currently work with numerous UK schools to ensure their individual spaces are made to suit the individual needs of the students. You can request a standing desk trail for your school here.