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

Nativity Play debate.

Published on 11 Dec 2018

A survey suggests that 37% of schools plan to hold a traditional rendition of the nativity play. Amy Nickell and Jessica Cunningham debate whether or not it's time for the play to have a more modern take. Subscribe now for more!

Watch the Good Morning Britain debate on Nativity Plays.


Michael Gove's reforms working?

The achievement gap between the poorest primary school children and their wealthier peers has closed by the biggest margin in six years following a raft of rigorous reforms.

This year, 51 per cent of children from poorer backgrounds reached the expected level in their national end-of-primary school tests, compared with 70 per cent of their better off peers, Government figures reveal.

The gap, measured using the government's disadvantage gap index, has shrunk by 13 per cent since 2011 and 3 per cent in the last year, the biggest change since 2012.

Read more.

Holiday hunger projects.

The government will spend another £9 million testing solutions to holiday hunger across England, but has abandoned plans to run a pilot in the Easter and summer holidays next year.

According to tender documents seen by Schools Week, the Department for Education is seeking organisations to test the “co-ordination” of free holiday provision, including “healthy food and enriching activities”, for disadvantaged children in nine local authorities during the 2019 summer holidays.

It follows a £2 million pilot this summer, a compromise by the government after MPs tried to force councils to provide free meals and activities for poor pupils in school holidays.

A DfE spokesperson told Schools Week the 2018 pilot “reached more than 18,000 children and helped us to find out how we can best support low-income families”.

The government originally pledged “a targeted pilot programme in the 2019 Easter and summer holidays”, but Schools Week understands that following feedback from this year’s programme, ministers have decided to “focus resources” on the summer.

Lindsay Graham, a food poverty campaigner, said she was “pleased to see this next step”, adding she was “not surprised” the Easter pilot had been abandoned.

“My guess is that is really down to timing,” she said. “Preparation for summer provision alone needs a decent planning period.

“Perhaps once the pilots are up and running the DfE should consider extending them into autumn or Christmas breaks next year instead. This might give some insight into what more would be needed at different times of the year.”

Read more detail.

Government refuses requests for GCSE scores to be wiped.

The government has refused nearly 7,000 requests from schools for their pupils’ GCSE scores to be wiped from league tables after applications rocketed following the introduction of Progress 8.

Schools can apply for the results of seriously ill pupils or those in police custody or who are home-educated to be “disapplied” from performance data, on the grounds that teachers cannot reasonably be held responsible for their outcomes.

New data, obtained after a freedom of information request by Schools Week, shows the number of requests for year 11 pupils has ballooned from 7,641 in 2015-16 (1.4 per cent of pupils) to 12,221 last year (2.3 per cent).

However, the government has got tough on approving applications – just 44 per cent got the green light last year, compared with 74 per cent in 2016-17.

Read more.

Minded to Terminate Letter - Cuckoo Hall Academy


Minded to Terminate Letter to the Members and Directors of the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust in respect of Cuckoo Hall Academy, Enfield.

In accordance with section 2A of the Academies Act 2010


1 any funding agreement of an academy may be terminated by the Secretary of State where special measures are required to be taken by the academy or the academy requires significant improvement and the Chief Inspector of Ofsted has given notice of that under section 13(3)(a) of the Education Act 2005.

Last year I received notification from Ofsted, dated 12-13 July 2017 (published on 20 October 2017), confirming that Cuckoo Hall Academy was judged to be Inadequate, and required special measures. Following the Ofsted inspection, I met with CHAT’s CEO and trustees and agreed to monitor the school’s progress for one academic year, whilst you implemented a school improvement plan.

As the Regional Schools Commissioner acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, I know you understand that I need to be satisfied that the trust will support Cuckoo Hall Academy to achieve rapid and sustained improvement. We met to review the trust’s performance, with particular focus on Cuckoo Hall Academy, on Tuesday 25 September 2018. I am concerned about the limited improvement in pupils’ outcomes at Cuckoo Hall Academy this year, and the trust’s capacity to provide the support the school requires.

I have written to you separately outlining my expectations for how the trust will address the areas for improvement we discussed. With respect to Cuckoo Hall Academy, I would like to proceed in the following way:

Read the full letter.

Ofsted Curriculum Review latest report.

In January 2017, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector commissioned a major research study into the curriculum. The purpose of this research was to ensure that Ofsted could assess the quality of education in a valid and reliable way. Because a refocus on the curriculum – the substance of what is taught in schools – has been at the heart of our recent proposals for the new education inspection framework (EIF), the evidence from this study will play a prominent part in how inspectors will inspect the quality of education in the future.

We carried out the study in three distinct phases. We visited 40 schools in phase 1,

1 23 schools in phase 22 and 64 schools in phase 3. In phase 1, the research attempted to understand the current state of curricular thinking in schools. It found that many schools were prioritising test and exam results and teaching a curriculum that was narrowly focused on those tests and exams instead of thinking about the substance of education – knowledge, skills and progression.

Read the full report.


Chief Inspector commenting on phase 3 of study into curriculum.

In January, I will consult on our new education inspection framework (EIF). As I have already announced, the heart of our proposals will be to refocus inspections on the quality of education, including curriculum intent, implementation and impact.

To ensure that inspection of the quality of education is valid and reliable, I commissioned a major, 2-year research study into the curriculum. I would like to thank the school leaders and teachers who have contributed to this work. We visited 40 schools in phase 1, 23 schools in phase 2 and now 64 schools in phase 3. When you add the focus groups, reviews of inspection reports and other methods, it’s clear that this is a significant study and we can be confident in its conclusions.

Read more.

UK Space Agency Education Programme inspires pupils.

The UK Space Agency ran a £3 million education campaign alongside the mission to the International Space Station, which blasted off three years ago tomorrow (15 December), to inspire a greater interest and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as space.

The campaign - the largest and most successful ever organised for a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut – encompassed 34 separate projects and covered a spectrum of ages and subjects, including mass participation experiments in schools using seeds that had been in space.

Read more.

Teacher jailed for sex with pupils.

A teacher has been jailed for 10 years for having sex with two pupils, one of whom he "groomed".

The girls were at different secondary schools in north-east Suffolk where Alex Brown had taught between 2015 and 2017.

Brown, 35, now of Leeds, admitted 11 offences at an earlier hearing.

The judge at Ipswich Crown Court described one of the victims as a "damaged, vulnerable, easily-targeted 15-year-old in your care".

Brown, now of Spibey Lane, Rothwell, admitted eight charges of sexual activity with a female and three of taking indecent images.

Read more.

New software to check on plagiarism at Unis.

On a handful of university campuses around the UK, a new weapon in the battle against cheating is being quietly tested.

Many students know that cutting and pasting content can get them into trouble for plagiarism.

Universities are already checking work that looks suspicious, to see if it has been copied from elsewhere on the web.

But there is growing concern that buying essays for cash is being normalised on social media platforms.

BBC Trending investigations into the promotion of cheating by You Tube stars have led to thousands of videos being taken down and a tightening of precautions by the video platform.


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