ACT - The Association of Christian Teachers

for Christians working in education

The week
News items from the week’s daily and education press, covering the major education news stories of the week.

Main points of conservative education manifesto.

A ban on new selective schools will be lifted with provision put in place to ensure pupils can join at other ages as well as 11.

To build at least a hundred new free schools a year with councils banned from creating new places at schools rated inadequate or requires improvement.

Plans for a national funding formula will be changed to ensure no school loses out.


The overall schools budget will increase by £4 billion by 2022 with free school meals for all infants to be scrapped and replaced with free breakfasts.

Schools get extra time to hit EBacc target.

The Conservative Party manifesto sets out plans to require schools to enter at least 90 per cent of pupils for the five EBacc subjects by 2025, instead of 2020

The target for schools to enter 90 per cent of pupils for the English Baccalaureate GCSE subjects would not have to be hit until 2025, under a Conservative Party manifesto plan published today.

The previous deadline for 90 per cent of pupils to sit GCSEs in English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language was 2020.

The manifesto states: "We will expect 75 per cent of pupils to have been entered for the EBacc combination of GCSEs by the end of the next parliament, with 90 per cent of pupils studying this combination of academic GCSEs by 2025."

The move follows concerns from headteachers about the target, partly due to a shortage of language teachers.

Read more.

Conservatives 'force' independent schools to sponsor a state school.

At least 100 of the country’s leading independent schools will be forced to sponsor a state school or risk losing their charitable status, under the Conservatives' education proposals.

The Tory manifesto states that private schools must sponsor an academy or set up a free school, as part of plans to create the "world’s great meritocracy".

In a move that will be seen as a warning that private schools will not be able to ignore the demand, the Tories said that they are “keeping open the option of changing the tax status of independent schools if progress is not made”.

Read more.

Chemical incident at Quinton School.

Six pupils and a teacher were treated for breathing difficulties after being exposed to the chemical bromine during a science lesson.

Ambulance crews were called to Four Dwellings Academy, in Birmingham, at about 10:15 BST on Wednesday.

The seven were taken to hospital as a precaution, West Midlands Ambulance Service said.

The service added the chemical was "isolated" and there was "no risk to anyone else".

Read more.

Food thrown at inspectors?

Students pelted school inspectors with food and jostled them in corridors during an Ofsted visit, according to the watchdog's report.

It found sixth formers at Willenhall E-ACT Academy in the West Midlands were afraid to leave their common room because of younger pupils' behaviour.

Inspectors rated the school inadequate overall, noting that "during 2015 and 2016, 70% of teachers left".

The BBC has contacted school sponsor E-ACT for comment.

More stories from the Black Country


In a letter sent to parents following the critical report's publication, E-ACT said it had "strong leadership" in place "driving standards" and was "confident that Willenhall Academy will continue to make rapid progress".

Read more.

Could Epi-pen have saved childs life.

A pupil who died after falling ill in detention could possibly have been saved if he had received medication more quickly, a coroner has concluded.

Nasar Ahmed, who had severe asthma and multiple allergies, died after falling ill in the supervised detention room of Bow School, Tower Hamlets, in November

The 14-year-old ate a meal he was allergic to hours before he collapsed.

Nasar's mother accused staff of failing in their duty of care. Bow School said it had reviewed its safety procedures.

'Critical situation'

Coroner Mary Hassell said it was a "possibility but not a probability" that had adrenaline been administered and speedier use made of an EpiPen, Nasar might have been saved.


Ms Hassell said she would be writing five Prevention of Future Death (PFD) reports, including one to the Chief Medical Officer to ask if EpiPens should be provided alongside defibrillators in public places.

The coroner found that school staff had underestimated how serious Nasar's asthma was, listing it as mild to moderate, rather than severe.

Read more.

More practical science lessons needed.

Practical science lessons are often overshadowed by a mountain of facts and an emphasis on maths and English, writes the chief executive of the British Science Association

What is science? Is it a body of facts, to be memorised and regurgitated? Or is it a method for finding out facts and testing and refining ideas? Most philosophers of science would argue it is the method, rather than the facts, that is science’s distinctive feature. The generation of testable hypotheses capable of being refuted by evidence is what underpins modern life.

Currently – and correctly – the curriculum requires children to learn how to "think scientifically", learning the skill of applying the scientific method when faced with a problem to solve.

But how do we learn how to think scientifically and, perhaps more importantly, how do we teach it? Other subjects emphasise experiential learning – getting your hands dirty and finding out through trial and error what approach works best in a given situation.

No-one believes that you learn to play football, for example, by reading a textbook day after day – you get outside and play. Even at a young age, when their skill levels are still very low, children are encouraged to play music, act, draw and write stories.

Read more.

Gender neutral school uniform policies growing fast.

At least 120 schools now have a gender-neutral school uniform policy, and primary schools are adopting the stance faster than secondary schools, a charity that develops LGBT training in schools has said.

A gender-neutral approach could involve allowing both boys and girls to wear either skirts or trousers, or may be based around a unisex uniform for all.

Dr Elly Barnes, founder of the charity Educate & Celebrate, said 120 schools have signed up to its best-practice programme and hundreds more may have put gender-neutral policies in place.

Read more.

Students puzzled by GCSE Biology question.

Plymouth students were among the many across the country who were dumbfounded by a strange question in their biology GCSE exam.

Twitter came alive as year 11 students mocked the paper, supplied by awarding body Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), for what appeared to be a totally random question about Charles Darwin.

Expecting difficult questions on topics such as the menstrual cycles and photosynthesis, students were confronted by the question "Explain why Darwin is drawn as a monkey".

The question about the famous biologist led to outrage among some students who felt it was unfair that they had not been asked about topics they have spent months revising.


One Plymouth student responded: "It's nice to see AQA are ruining this years GCSEs and not just last years #AQABiology"

Another added: "How did you pass GCSE Biology?

"Exam: Why was Charles Darwin drawn as a monkey?


How do we show international students they are still welcome?

When the government decided against excluding international students from immigration targets through the Higher Education and Research Act, the higher education sector reacted with dismay. Now we are hearing that the Conservative manifesto commitment to cut net migration to tens of thousands is to be repeated. Responsibility for making international students and staff feel welcome in the UK must therefore fall to universities themselves.

Government decisions are sending out the wrong message to the rest of the world. This is a shame, since international students and academics who come to study or work in the UK have greatly enhanced the higher education sector, British society and our economy. They also help make the UK a world leader in innovation, scientific research and collaboration.

But the education select committee [pdf] recently reported that the number of EU undergraduates had dropped by 7.4% over the past year, and this is likely to continue amid Brexit uncertainty. This was confirmed by Hobsons’ research last year, which found that 36% of prospective international students said they would be less likely to study in the UK after the Brexit vote.

There is comfort to be taken, however. This year’s annual survey of more than 27,000 prospective international students found that only 13% were less interested in studying in the UK. This may indicate that sentiment towards the UK is less negative now than it was nine months after the referendum.

Our research also showed that sector-wide publicity campaigns aimed at promoting UK universities as welcoming destinations such as #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen were having a measurably positive impact – 84% of respondents said these campaigns had persuaded them that the UK was welcoming. It confirms that more can be done by universities and by all of us with an interest in UK higher education to encourage international students to keep on coming. It’s in the country’s interest as well – according to Universities UK, international students generated some £11bn for our economy in 2016.

There are a number of practical steps that universities can take to try to ensure that international students keep coming to the UK. We know that when choosing a destination, overseas students are motivated by how welcome they feel. Universities should build on the success of campaigns like #WeAreInternational by expanding these efforts. We believe that projecting a strong, welcoming message in all marketing materials through digital campaigns, social media and on the global stage could help attract some of the students considering studying in the US to the UK.

There are many other factors besides rankings that influence international students’ perceptions of quality, and there is potential to appeal to overseas students by demonstrating the strength of an institution’s offer in alternative terms. Highlighting teaching quality, staff qualifications and student satisfaction in all communications with prospective international students during their enquiry and application journey can have a significant impact.



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