Education News

Academies overspend by more than £170m

Academies overspend by more than £170m

Figures also show increased spending by academies on supply staff

Academies have overspent by more than £170m, the latest government figures have shown.

Numbers released today by the Department for Education show that academies’ expenditure exceeded their income by £171m.

Academies received a total income of £16.74bn in the year ending August 2015, but they spent £16.91bn. The overspend equates to 1 per cent of the academies’ income.

The government states that this does not mean the academies have fallen into debt, “as they may have reserve funds from which these costs were able to be met”.

The news is likely to raise questions about academy chains building up reserves, rather than spending the money on children’s education.

The figures show that expenditure on teaching staff as a proportion of total expenditure has fallen by 4.4 percentage points since 2011/12. At the same time, spending has increased on supply staff and support staff.

Overall, academies spent £8.27bn on teaching staff, but also £440m on supply staff. The figures reveal the growing demands that the teacher recruitment and retention shortage is having on school budgets.

According to the data, 95.8 per cent of academies’ income came through direct grants, with the remainder generated by the academies themselves. Ark Schools was able to raise more than £11m on its own, more than any other academy trust.

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Teachers sought as trustees for College of Teaching

Teachers sought as trustees for College of Teaching

Body is looking for people with the ability to ‘challenge current thinking’

Up to eight classroom teachers are being sought to help shape the direction of the new College of Teaching.

The body is looking for trustees who are currently working as teachers, have up-to-date knowledge of the education sector and have experience in fields such as evidence-based practice or sharing best practice between schools.

The College of Teaching is launching in the autumn as a new chartered body for the profession. It will be led by teachers and will be independent of the government.

It aims to give members access to high-quality evidence, including a new peer-reviewed journal and will set up regional networks and run national events to debate evidence-informed practice.

There are already 13 founding trustees, who were appointed in autumn 2015. And last month, the college advertised for a chief executive.

Determining strategy

The eight further classroom teachers will be appointed as council members with collective responsibilities including determining the overall development of the college and overseeing a fundraising strategy. The body is being set up with government seed funding of £5 million, but attempts earlier this year to raise more money for the college were disappointing.

There is no expectation that applicants will have positions of responsibility in school, but middle leaders may apply.

The advert says that the personal qualities required include the “ability to challenge current thinking in a constructive manner and in the best interests of the College and the teaching profession”.

The role is voluntary and will involve up to 20 days a year. Trustees are expected to serve for two years. Expenses will be paid.

The deadline for applications is Friday 30 September 2016. More information is available here.

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Digital divide

There are strong social divisions in how young people use digital technology at home, according to international research from the OECD.

An open letter to Justine Greening: ‘post-Brexit, our pupils need citizenship lessons’

An open letter to Justine Greening: ‘post-Brexit, our pupils need citizenship lessons’

Thirty-seven headteachers, academics and educationists have written an open letter to the new education secretary, calling for a renewed commitment to citizenship lessons in post-Brexit Britain.

They are also asking Justine Greening to give increased emphasis to RE and to personal, social and health education (PSHE). And they stress the dangers of schools shutting down conversations about what it means to be British.

The letter, dated Wednesday 27 July, argues that these subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum by the demands of core academic subjects.

It states: “The referendum has raised deep questions about identity and belonging for many young people, for which an increasingly narrow academic curriculum has left them ill-equipped.

“In addition to acquiring knowledge, young people need to successfully develop conflict-resolution, decision-making skills, self-regulation, self-respect, negotiation and respect for those with different beliefs and values.”

‘Renewed conversation’

The letter notes that RE and citizenship often allow space for pupils to express their concerns, and for those concerns to be addressed.

“We call on government to enable teachers to continue the good work of asking challenging questions, acknowledging the discomforting nature of some of the answers, and promoting a vision of our young people as global and European citizens,” it states.

“Now is the time to commit to a renewed conversation about our shared national values, ensuring that young people’s voices are heard.”

In particular, it continues: “We are aware of the dangers of some schools misinterpreting the need to promote fundamental British values in ways which close down, rather than open up, meaningful discussions.”

‘Times of unprecedented change’

It also notes that the children’s commissioner, as well as the majority of teachers, pupils and parents are in favour of compulsory PSHE lessons. It argues that the government should make the subject mandatory.

The letter is the result of a discussion, held at Liverpool Hope University’s faculty of education immediately after the 23 June referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union. Its signatories include representatives of RE and citizenship education, as well as education academics from Liverpool Hope and elsewhere.

David Lundie, senior lecturer in education at Liverpool Hope, organised the discussion. “It is vital that, in times of unprecedented change like this, that we pay special attention to the impact that Brexit is already having, and will have, on young people,” he said.

“This letter calls for the government to help put a joined-up plan in place, when it comes to meaningfully communicating and engaging young people with an understanding of what is going on around them.”

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Schools must follow ‘simple rules’ to ‘crack the code’ of social mobility, says tsar

Schools must follow ‘simple rules’ to ‘crack the code’ of social mobility, says tsar

Social mobility should be the ‘holy grail of public policy’, former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn has said

If some schools can crack the code of helping disadvantaged children to excel then it isn’t “unreasonable” to ask others to do the same, the country’s social mobility tsar has said.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, has said there are “simple rules” that schools can emulate to ensure that “deprivation needn’t be destiny”.

Speaking at the Teach First Impact Conference, where TES is an exclusive media partner, Mr Milburn said schools that had “cracked the code” on social mobility use the pupil premium strategically, build a high-expectations culture, focus on the quality of teaching and engage parents effectively.

He added: “Critically, they seek to prepare students for life, not just exams. If some schools can do these things, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask why others cannot do likewise.”

The former Labour cabinet minister said there should be a “zero tolerance approach” to schools whose results remain below floor standards for a five-year period – and he called for “wholesale changes” in leadership of these schools if progress is not made.

During the event, Mr Milburn also called for the end of the “education lottery” – where schools with similar intakes of poorer pupils achieve vastly different outcomes.

Addressing the Teach First participants, Mr Milburn criticised the recruitment system as being “chaotic”, claiming that teachers are drawn to schools where performance is good and student intake is less challenging.

He said: “This system, if it can be graced with that name, is designed to perpetuate rather than address the geographical and social divides affecting our nation.”

Mr Milburn concluded that social mobility should be the “holy grail” of public policy and should be high priority for government.

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WATCH: Teachers surprise pupils with Money Supermarket spoof video

WATCH: Teachers surprise pupils with Money Supermarket spoof video

Pupils laugh and scream when they are shown the amusing ‘Epic Dance-Off’ clip

Teachers used to mark their pupils’ last day at school with some well-meaning platitudes and, at most, a firm handshake. But not any more.

Two teachers at Grove Park Primary School in Sittingbourne, Kent, have filmed their unique version of the unforgettable Money Supermarket advert, called “Epic Dance-Off”.

The advert features a dancing builder and a denim short-clad businessman, who try and better each other’s dance moves.

‘The whole hall fell about’

Christopher Denney and Cameron Davidson recorded their own take on the hit TV advert to show their Year 6 pupils during assembly on their last day.

The end-of-year assembly had a Gogglebox-style theme, with the pupils having filmed parodies of TV shows, such as The Jeremy Kyle Show and EastEnders.

“In between the TV shows there were adverts and this was the surprise advert that nobody knew about,” Mr Denney told Mirror Online.

“The whole hall laughed and screamed their way through it.”

Watch the video below:

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Nick Gibb avoids giving stance on new grammar schools

Nick Gibb avoids giving stance on new grammar schools

The teaching profession has never been ‘more vibrant and alive’ says the schools minister, who was met with groans from the audience over claims teacher numbers are the highest ever

Schools minister Nick Gibb has refused to say whether he wants new grammar schools to open following the relaunch of a campaign to overturn the law banning them.

Mr Gibb avoided giving his stance on the controversial topic during a question and answer session with thousands of teachers this afternoon in Leeds.

In the week that more than 100 Tory MPs have called for the law banning new grammar schools from opening to be repealed, Mr Gibb was giving little away when asked his view on the matter.

He said: “My view is that those [163 grammar schools in this country] are very good, the law is very clear, and we want to encourage good schools to expand.”

His cagey response comes on the same day that campaigners against grammar schools in Buckinghamshire wrote to education secretary Justine Greening saying selection at age 10 ‘damages the educational chances of the majority of children’.

The letter, from the Local, Equal Excellent group, said that children from poor backgrounds did “disproportionately badly” under the 11+ exam.

Earlier this month, Justine Greening, who is the first education secretary to attend a comprehensive school, said she was “open minded” to a return to grammar schools.

This prompted the head of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz, to call on ministers not to become distracted by grammar schools and instead to focus on tackling educational inequality.

Mr Gibb used his speech at the Teach First Impact Conference, where TES is the media partner, to say he’s never seen a time when the education sector has been “more vibrant and alive”.

But when challenged on the teacher shortage, the MP received groans from the audience when he said “there are more teachers in our profession today than at any time”.

Members of the audience laughed when he added that Britain had a “strong economy”. But Mr Gibb acknowledged that there were “serious challenges” in some parts of the country and subjects.

During his speech, he said: “Having been involved in education since I became a shadow minister in 2005 I have never seen a time when the sector has been more vibrant and alive with new ideas as it is today.”

Nick Gibb avoids revealing his stance on new grammar schools

Nick Gibb avoids revealing his stance on new grammar schools

The teaching profession has never been ‘more vibrant and alive’ says the schools minister, who was met with groans when he claimed teacher numbers were the highest they had ever been

Schools minister Nick Gibb has refused to say whether he wants new grammar schools to open following the relaunch of a campaign to overturn the law banning them.

Mr Gibb avoided revealing his stance on the controversial topic during a question and answer session with thousands of teachers this afternoon in Leeds.

In the week that more than 100 Tory MPs have called for the law banning new grammar schools from opening to be repealed, Mr Gibb was giving little away when asked for his opinion on the matter.

“My view is that those [163 grammar schools in this country] are very good, the law is very clear, and we want to encourage good schools to expand,” he said.

His cagey response comes on the same day that campaigners against grammar schools in Buckinghamshire have written to education secretary Justine Greening saying that selection at age 10 “damages the educational chances of the majority of children”.

The letter, from the Local, Equal Excellent group, says that children from poor backgrounds do “disproportionately badly” in the 11-plus exam.

‘Open-minded’ about selection

Earlier this month, Ms Greening, who is the first education secretary to have attended a comprehensive school, said she was “open-minded” about a return to grammar schools.

This prompted the head of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz, to call on ministers not to become distracted by grammar schools and instead to focus on tackling educational inequality.

Mr Gibb used his speech at the Teach First Impact Conference, where TES is the media partner, to say that he’s never seen a time when the education sector has been “more vibrant and alive”.

But when challenged on the teacher shortage, the MP was met with groans when he said “there are more teachers in our profession today than at any time”.

Members of the audience laughed when he added that Britain had a “strong economy”. But Mr Gibb acknowledged that there were “serious challenges” in some parts of the country and subjects.

During his speech, he said: “Having been involved in education since I became a shadow minister in 2005 I have never seen a time when the sector has been more vibrant and alive with new ideas as it is today.”

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Speech: Nick Gibb: building a renaissance in mathematics teaching

Can I start by thanking you for inviting me to join you at your conference today. I hugely appreciate the work that ACME have done to inform both government policy and classroom practice since its foundation in 2002.

Since I first became Shadow Schools Minister in 2005, I have visited several hundred schools. During my visits, particularly to primary schools, I often ask whether I can speak to the class as a whole. Over the years, I have developed something of a lesson routine: I explain to pupils the job of a government minister; a little bit about how Parliament works; and a few titbits of British history. And I also quiz pupils on their general knowledge, in particular on their times tables. And I think it is becoming general knowledge that I do this, and it deters schools from inviting me.

And over the years I have noticed a change. When I ask pupils, “Do you know your times tables?” I am increasingly greeted, not with downward looks and shuffling feet, but with confident classroom cheers of “Yes!” Last month, I was in Chacewater Community Primary School in Cornwall, and every year 3 and 4 pupil I quizzed had automatic recall of all their times tables, even the tricky 7 times table, and all the way up to 12 times 12.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “The Schools minister is talking about times tables again. When will he realise that mathematics is about so much more about this?” I willingly accept that immediate recall of basic number facts is not the totality of mathematics education. Conceptual thinking and real world problem-solving are – ultimately – what we need our pupils to be able to perform once they leave school.

But, as recent and rigorous research into cognitive psychology has shown, number knowledge and fluency in written calculation are not the antithesis of problem solving in mathematics. Rather, they are the royal road by which complex mathematical thinking is achieved.

And that is why I am so delighted to see increased evidence on the ground of schools ensuring their pupils master these basics, before more complicated mathematics is introduced.

Today, I want to celebrate a renaissance in mathematics teaching that is taking place in our schools. Currently happening on a small scale, it has the potential to revolutionise the teaching of the subject in this country.

Before I was elected to Parliament, I worked as a chartered accountant. As such, I belonged to a select group of people for whom it is not socially acceptable to claim “I can’t do maths.” For decades, this phrase – “Can’t do maths” – has been a common refrain in British culture. It is extraordinary that in a country which produced Charles Babbage and Bletchley Park, a deficiency at mathematics has come to be seen as a defining national characteristic.

But there are high-performing jurisdictions abroad, as well as exceptional schools at home, which demonstrate that the vast majority of children, if taught well, can achieve at mathematics. See for example King Solomon Academy, a non-selective school in central London.

This school places a strong focus on depth before breadth in numeracy and literacy, and in 2014, all but 5% of King Solomon Academy pupils achieved a GCSE in mathematics at grade C or above, and in fact 82% achieved at grade B or above. This is an astonishing achievement for any non-selective school, let alone an inner-city school with a proportion of disadvantaged pupils over 3 times the national average.

And King Solomon Academy is not alone: Bethnal Green Academy in east London, Thomas Telford School in the West Midlands, Emmanuel College in Gateshead, are all comprehensive schools, serving socially mixed populations, where well over 90% of pupils get a good GCSE in mathematics.

Of course, the expert mathematics teaching we see in the best of our schools does not yet characterise all of our schools. According to the international PISA tests carried out by the OECD, 22% of 15-year-olds in this country performed at the lowest level of mathematics proficiency in 2012. This means they were unable to carry out simple tasks such as recognising that travelling 4 kilometers in 10 minutes means going at the same speed as travelling 2 kilometers in 5 minutes.

In countries such as Korea and Singapore, and cities such as Hong Kong and Shanghai, the percentage of low-performing 15-year-olds is below 10%. There is nothing different about children in these countries, but there is something different about their approach to teaching maths.

To learn more about maths teaching in these countries, the government founded the maths hubs programme in 2013. Thirty-five maths hubs have been established in schools or groups of schools throughout England, to become centres of expertise in south-east Asian mastery teaching.

Over the past 2 years, we have arranged for 127 teachers from Shanghai to teach in English schools for 3 weeks, and 131 teachers from England to teach in Shanghai. This partnership will continue over the next 2 years, with many more teachers from England and China benefiting from the exchange programme and the opportunity this offers to strengthen the teaching of maths in primary schools.

According to an independent evaluation by academics from Sheffield Hallam University, based on data collected between February and July last year, early indications are that the exchange has the potential to foster a radical shift in mathematics teaching in participating primary schools.

One primary school profiled in the report had implemented many aspects of Shanghai teaching, such as: additional lessons for pupils needing more support; 35 minute lessons, with the first focused on developing conceptual understanding, and the second on practice and consolidation of new content; and a change of classroom organisation from small groups of tables based on attainment, to rows of children facing the front – leading to more whole-class engagement. The school reports that pupil results have already seen an increase in that school.

The report also stated that across all 48 schools in the hub network, most teachers reported that the changes implemented had led to positive outcomes for pupils, which included an “increased enthusiasm for mathematics, deeper engagement, increased confidence, and higher levels of attainment”. The report cited examples of schools’ improved outcomes, including, and I quote, “in one school, year 3 pupils who followed a mastery approach achieved higher scores than year 4 pupils who had been taught in the usual manner on the same assessment task”.

I had the great privilege of travelling to Shanghai in March to witness their maths teaching. Of course, there was an admirable emphasis on mastering the basics. But I was also greatly impressed by the emphasis placed on ensuring mathematical procedures and knowledge are underpinned by strong conceptual understanding, often through visual representations. In addition, a great emphasis was placed in these schools on ensuring that pupils use clear and precise mathematical language from an early age to articulate the procedures they perform.

But perhaps most crucially, the knowledge, examples and questions which underlie successful teaching across south-east Asia are embodied in detailed curriculum, and high-quality textbooks.

I have frequently spoken about my belief that pupil outcomes in Britain have been held back, significantly held back, by an anti-textbook ethos in our schools. This ethos is based on a longstanding prejudice that equates textbooks with unimaginative teaching. It is clearly reflected in international surveys of teaching practice. According to the 2011 TIMSS international survey, 70% of Singaporean pupils in year 5 are taught by teachers who use textbooks as a basis for instruction in lessons. In Finland, the figure was 95%. But in England, the figure was 10%.

A similar finding exists in the OECD‘s Equations and Inequalities report published last month. Of all 64 participating countries, the UK had the third lowest proportion of pupils taught in schools with a formal mathematics textbook policy. According to the survey, only 2% of UK pupils attend schools where either heads, local authorities, or national government choose textbooks. This was the fourth lowest proportion in the OECD. Together, these figures suggest that schools in the UK, almost uniquely, have not seen textbook choice as an area for strategic school improvement.

By contrast, in Shanghai and Singapore, an enormous amount of thought and care goes into the construction of maths textbooks, planning in great detail the sequence of teacher exposition. No pupil’s understanding is left to chance or accident: every step of a lesson is deliberate, purposeful and precise.

Contrary to what many critics suppose, the common curriculum and textbooks in south-east Asia do not constrain teacher creativity. Quite the opposite: high-quality resources provide a foundation upon which creative and imaginative teaching can be built.

In the spirit of learning from the best jurisdictions in the world for teaching mathematics, I am delighted that England’s maths hubs are currently trialling 2 English adaptations of Singapore mathematics textbooks, entitled ‘Maths No Problem’ and ‘Inspire Maths’. The feedback we are getting from teachers and pupils so far is overwhelmingly positive, not least due to the workload savings that a well-designed textbook can provide.

In addition, maths hubs are learning that south-east Asian teaching methods depend upon whole-class instruction from the teacher. As Charlie Stripp from the National Centre for the Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has observed, this does not mean reducing pupils to being passive recipients of boring lectures, as some caricatures of south-east Asian teaching suggest. Teaching there is teacher-led, but not teacher-dominated, with constant questioning and interaction between the teacher and the pupils in the class.

In 2014, a fascinating piece of research was published by Professor David Reynolds of Southampton University, and his Chinese postgraduate research student Zhenzhen Miao. They videoed lessons in both countries, to find out what teaching methods were being used to such great success in the Chinese classroom. The answer was clear: in Chinese classrooms, whole-class interactive teaching made up 72% of lesson time, compared with only 24% of lesson time in England. In England, almost half of the time – 47% – was used up on pupils working individually or in groups, compared with only 28% of the time in China.

But perhaps most importantly of all, mastery mathematics teaching is based upon the principle that, if taught well, all pupils can master the content of a lesson. According to the OECD‘s Teaching and Learning International Survey, differentiated teaching is not common in high-performing south-east Asian countries. This is because it reinforces the performance gap between high and low attaining pupils. Across the OECD as a whole, the practice of differentiating work by ability whilst teaching has a negative relationship with pupil outcomes – an insight provided by the maths teacher and education blogger Greg Ashman.

Through visiting maths hubs and talking to their teachers, I have been consistently impressed by how positively teachers have engaged in the project. Over the next 4 years, we will spend up to £41 million cascading south-east Asian mastery teaching to primary schools throughout the country via our maths hubs network. This money will subsidise new mastery textbooks in thousands of primary schools, train a cadre of 700 specialist mastery teachers, and fund teacher release so that more teachers can – in turn – be trained by them.

Supporting maths hubs in delivering this ambitious vision will be the National Maths Education Centre, which I am launching the tender for today. The centre will provide leadership to our maths hubs in transforming primary mathematics, through training teachers in south-east Asian mastery methods.

Such measures will ensure that, in time, mastery methods are the default approach for teaching mathematics in primary schools throughout the country.

Today also marks the publication of Stephen Munday’s report into core content for initial teacher training, and David Weston’s new standard for professional development. Both Stephen and David have worked hard, canvassing a broad and varied set of opinions, yet still managing to find some clear and well expressed principles to guide both the initial and the continuous training of classroom teachers.

I am particularly pleased that both Stephen and David’s reports emphasise the importance of subject knowledge, and pedagogical subject knowledge. Much of teaching is, of course, a craft. But it is a craft that is underpinned with concrete knowledge about what to teach, and how best to teach it. Both reports emphasise that high-quality professional development does not end with becoming a qualified teacher, but should continue throughout a teacher’s career.

Nowhere is this more the case than in mathematics. A good maths teacher will know precisely how best to explain ratio, prime numbers, and expanding brackets in an algebraic equation, and will be able to anticipate the common misconceptions that can occur. These reports, along with the expanded funding of the maths hubs project, should ensure that high-quality subject-based training will be available for teachers for years to come.

This government has also pledged to introduce a computerised multiplication check to ensure that basic number facts are being mastered by pupils before they leave primary school. The announcement was received positively by many parents and teachers. But I am disappointed that some influential voices within maths education remain opposed.

One English educationist, now residing at an American university, appeared in the TES in December arguing she would “ban” times table tests, and told the Telegraph that they have nothing to do with mathematics. Earlier last year, Conrad Wolfram wrote in the Financial Times that calculation is an “obsolete skill”, thanks to technological advances of the 21st century.

That last comment reminded me of an influential pamphlet about the future of mathematics entitled ‘I do, and I understand’. This pamphlet suggests that in the age of the computer and the “simple calculating machine”, mental arithmetic has become a thing of the past. It was written in 1967. Such a romantic view was wrong then, and I believe it is wrong today.

Five decades of research into cognitive science, as reviewed by the American psychologists James Royer and Loel Tronsky, shows that there is a positive relationship between computational automaticity and complex mathematical problem-solving skills.

Of course, mathematics is not limited to number knowledge, just as reading is not limited to decoding words. But fluent number knowledge is an unavoidable gateway to pass through before achieving the more valuable prize of complex problem-solving. When your working memory is freed of having to make simple calculations, it can think more fully about the conceptual underpinnings of a problem. As the American cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has written, “This automatic retrieval of basic math facts is critical to solving complex problems, because complex problems have simpler problems embedded in them.”

A lovely example of this was provided by the mathematician Hung-Hsi Wu, in the magazine American Educator. In order to illustrate to pupils the concept of a repeating decimal sequence, teachers may want to ask pupils to carry out a long division sum such as 1 divided by 3. But in order to carry out that long division, pupils will need to have automatic recall of some simple addition and subtraction sums. Thus, a fluency in number facts, and a knowledge of the long division procedure, are necessary for pupils to understand the concept of a repeating decimal.

Whilst I believe that significant mistakes have been made in the fashions of mathematics teaching in the past, there are many reasons also to be optimistic about the subject’s future. Pupils themselves are increasingly recognising the benefits of studying mathematics past GCSE. Since 2010, the proportion of pupils entering mathematics A level has increased by 18%, the proportion entering further maths A level has increased by 27%, and the proportion entering physics A level has increased by 15%.

In addition, we have encouraged many more pupils to continue studying maths beyond the age of 16 through developing the new core maths qualification. Pupils who achieve a good GCSE in maths are now able to keep the subject fresh in their minds through studying the application of mathematics in real life situations. In the data-rich world in which we live, many, many more academic subjects require a basic facility with numbers and statistical analysis, and the core maths qualification will help pupils achieve this.

However, we need to go even further. This is why the government has commissioned Professor Sir Adrian Smith to review the case and feasibility for more or all students continuing to study maths to 18 in the longer-term. His review, the terms of reference of which we have published today is looking at how we can build on recent rises in participation and the introduction of vital new qualifications to ensure that as many pupils as possible learn the skills they will need to succeed in the modern economy.

Not enough pupils currently leave education with these skills, but where pupil outcomes at mathematics in this country are low, I do not believe it is because of a lack of good teachers, or good schools, or good parents. I believe it is because of a lack of good ideas.

The current renaissance in mathematics teaching is enlivening our classrooms with good ideas about mathematics teaching from around the world. Through the government’s maths hubs programme, the evidence of cognitive scientists, and the innovation brought about by increased school autonomy, teaching methods in mathematics are improving year on year.

Methods that were once castigated as ‘outdated’ and ‘bad practice’, such as memorisation, frequent assessment, and the use of textbooks, are being rehabilitated in English classrooms. For someone who visits schools across the country every week, this change is palpable.

With such developments continuing, I am confident that we will one day have a country where mass innumeracy, and the phrase “Can’t do maths,” are things of the past. The demands of the working world in the 21st century are such that all pupils – and not just the future accountants of this world – must have it within them to “Do maths.”

Gove dream of free schools in re-used buildings hit by further setbacks

Gove dream of free schools in re-used buildings hit by further setbacks

Planners reject free school bid in another disused police station as DfE spends ‘staggering’ £33.5m for single free school site in north London

Michael Gove’s dream of free schools opening in disused buildings has received another high profile setback with a bid to open a school in a former north London police station set to be turned down.

Planning officers at Camden Council have recommended that an application to convert the former Hampstead Police Station into a primary school is rejected.

It is only the latest reverse for a policy, announced by Mr Gove in 2010, of encouraging free schools to open in “pet shops and funeral parlours”.

If Camden councillors follow their officers’ recommendation on Thursday, it will be the second time in almost as many months that a free school bid hoping to open in a disused police station has been rejected by planners.

A similar bid in east London, on the site of the old Clapton Police Station, was vetoed by Hackney Council amid fears the size and scale of the Olive Free School was too big for the location.

According to the Camden New Journal, supporters of the Abacus Free School in Hampstead had hoped to open a school for 420 primary pupils in the Grade II-listed police station.

But the application was recommended for rejection last week due to concerns that it would lead to “unreasonable” traffic congestion.

Hundreds of comments on the plans were received by the Town Hall, including objections from broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and actor Tim Pigott-Smith.

The planning officers’ report states: “Having carefully weighed the public benefit of providing a school against the harm to the listed building, officers consider that the extent of harm to the Grade II-listed building and this part of Hampstead Conservation Area outweighs the public benefit.”

Meanwhile, another free school application in north London has sparked an outcry after it was revealed that the government had paid £33.5m for a site near to two existing high-performing secondary schools.

The Department for Education purchased the office block in December in order to house a 1,000-student secondary school.

The site was bought by developer Pegasus Ltd £25.7m back in March 2015, meaning the company secured a £7.8m profit in just nine months.

But the decision to establish a school near to the outstanding-rated Highbury Grove School, and Highbury Fields, which is judged to be “good”, has provoked serious criticism.

Richard Watts, Labour’s leader of Islington Council described the bid as a “staggering waste of money”.

“This is an area where there is no need for a new secondary school and, given there are areas across London and the rest of the country where there is an acute need for new places, to spend a fortune on this site in Islington seems completely unjustified,” Mr Watts told The Guardian.

“It’s a staggering waste of taxpayers’ money. If a local council had done this, it would be taken to the cleaners by the district auditor. But there is an incredible lack of transparency around these [free school] developments. It seems no one at all is taking responsibility for ensuring that public money is spent efficiently.”

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Focus on inequality not grammar schools, Teach First tells ministers

Focus on inequality not grammar schools, Teach First tells ministers

The government would be wrong to prioritise the opening of grammar schools because they ‘only affect a small number of children and are often not in the area of greatest need’, argues charity boss

The head of Teach First has warned the government not to become distracted by grammar schools and urged ministers instead to focus on tackling educational inequality.

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of Teach First, pictured, said prime minister Theresa May’s new Cabinet should make the needs of the country’s most disadvantaged pupils one of its chief priorities.

Mr Wigdortz also said that it was his organisation’s duty to focus on those areas that voted for Brexit, as they were the parts of the country that felt most “left behind”.

He was commenting after education secretary Justine Greening said earlier this month that she was keeping an open mind about grammar schools.

Too many children ‘left behind’

Speaking at the charity’s annual conference in Leeds, Mr Wigdortz said tackling educational inequity should be at the centre of the government’s new agenda to “build a better Britain”, not the reintroduction of grammar schools.

“Too many children in too many areas are being left behind without the education they deserve,” he said. “Addressing their needs should be our nation’s priority and the priority of the new education secretary, Justine Greening, not the issue of grammar schools.

Grammar schools only affect a small number of children and are often not in the area of greatest need.”

As part of the charity’s drive to combat educational inequality, Mr Wigdortz called on the organisation’s new recruits to “change the fabric of society” in areas with the poorest performing schools that voted “overwhelmingly” to leave the EU.

Addressing more than 4,000 new Teach First participants, Mr Wigdortz said: “From what we have seen over the last month, one thing is clear to me: we must expand our efforts to tackle education inequity. This is becoming more and more important with everything going on in this country.

“Areas that had the lowest performing schools most overwhelmingly voted for Brexit a month ago. I think what that says to me is there are huge areas of the country that feel disenfranchised and left behind.

“These are areas where schools can make a massive impact… we can change the fabric of society in those areas. Make people feel not left behind but part of Britain’s future.

“I believe to tackle this requires a movement of leaders… The work you are doing has never, ever been more important in British history than I believe it is today.”

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Russian billionaire sponsors astronomical project linking schools in London and Moscow

Russian billionaire sponsors astronomical project linking schools in London and Moscow

Pupils will get the chance to discover stars and asteroids and have them officially recorded

Schools in London and Moscow will forge links to share their astronomical findings thanks to a new initiative launched by Russia’s richest woman.

Yelena Baturina, a billionaire who made her fortune in the construction industry, has launched a programme to establish partnerships between schools in the capital cities in a bid to boost interest in astronomy.

The project, called Discovery Within a Week, will bring PhD students from University College London’s physics and astronomy department to mentor secondary pupils in schools in disadvantaged areas of the city.

The astronomers will teach young people about the technology used in astronomy, and each week the students will share their research via Skype with their counterparts in Moscow.

Any stars discovered by participating students will be recorded in the International Variable Star Index, while the coordinates of the asteroids detected will be sent to the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University.

A number of schools have already signed up to a pilot of the project, and it is hoped more schools will join the programme at the start of the academic year.

The project comes in the year that British astronaut Tim Peake inspired a generation of children with his six month stay on the International Space Station.

Cutting-edge science in the classroom

The initiative is being funded by Ms Baturina’s philanthropic foundation Noosphere in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London.

Matthew Patten, chief executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London, said: “This is a fantastic new collaboration between East and West, bringing cutting-edge science and astronomy into London classrooms and broadening children’s perceptions of the world they live in. We want more schools in London to join this journey of discovery.”

It is hoped the partnerships with the schools will create a wide network of young stargazers and researchers.

Ms Baturina said the aim of her foundation was to encourage younger generations to think globally and with an informed, open and universal perspective.

“That, I am sure, will keep our society from sliding into the chaos of differences and conflicts. We should show both children and adults the universal aesthetic and scientific principles that unite people from all parts of the world,” she added.

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Dick and Dom’s masterclass in making mischief at school

Dick and Dom’s masterclass in making mischief at school

‘Be naughty but nice,’ say the slapstick TV duo as they offer classroom pranksters the benefits of their wisdom

When Dominic Wood was at primary school, there was a fad for collecting keyrings. At one point, sitting in class, it suddenly dawned on him that jangling all his keyrings would be a good way to wind up the teacher, and that he would then be asked to take them all off.

“So I took them off really slowly, one by one – you know when you have to wind each one round,” Wood says.

“I could have just unclipped the whole thing. But you get a sense of achievement when you push the boundaries.”

Wood, 38, is better known as Dom, half of children’s television presenting duo Dick and Dom. In shows such as Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, they specialise in the kinds of mischief-making easily aped by primary pupils.

In fact, such is the appeal of this type of mild naughtiness that a new TES survey of around 2,500 primary pupils has found that most of the experiences that the under-11s want to have at school tend to involve a gentle pushing at boundaries. For example, pupils want to spin in a teacher’s chair, call a male teacher “Miss” or have a water fight.

Wood and Richard McCourt – aka Dick – spoke to TES about the importance of these experiences. “When you get to a certain age – usually halfway through primary school – it’s natural to test boundaries,” Wood says. “And, when you realise you’ll get a reaction, it’s even more fun.” One of Dick and Dom’s bestknown recurring jokes involves challenging one another to say the word “bogies” in a public place. They take turns saying the word at increasing volume, until one admits defeat.

“You learn the difference between mischief and bad behaviour,” says McCourt. “Smashing windows is bad, but having a water fight is good. Our motto is: you can be naughty but nice. Like cream cakes.”

Pick the right teacher

Of course, he adds, even the best-intentioned mischief will not necessarily meet with favour in the classroom. “There are different types of teachers,” McCourt says. “Some don’t like any behaviour like that: keep your head down. Some take a cheeky look and run with it – make it fun for everyone. You’ve got to have fun when learning. That’s so important.”

At Tapton School in Sheffield, McCourt had a GCSE geography teacher who fell into the latter category. “Weirdly, it showed in my grades,” the 39-year-old says. “It made me more relaxed, and I learned more. I got a B.”

But, he and Wood add, children planning mischief should remember that even the most game-for-a-laugh teacher can suddenly stop seeing the fun. “Teachers are only human,” says Wood. “If they’re having a bad day, or haven’t slept well, and someone comes in and has a bit of cheeky banter, that won’t go down well. They’ll throw you out of class.

“Make sure you don’t upset anyone doing it – that’s all I say. Don’t upset anyone, and don’t disrupt the class, whatever you do.”

“Yes,” says McCourt, offering up another motto of mischief-making. “Bring light to your class, but don’t bring anger. Make people laugh.”

@adibloom

The Dick and Dom guide to mild naughtiness

  • Know the difference between pushing boundaries and breaking the rules: banter is fun, violence is not.
  • Make people laugh, but also make sure you don’t upset or anger anyone.
  • Bring fun to a lesson, but don’t disrupt it: remember that people are there to learn.
  • Choose your context carefully: some teachers will respond well to jokes, but others won’t.
  • Draw a line: you want to make your classmates laugh and your teachers shake their heads. If your teacher becomes angry, you have crossed the line.
  • Know when to give up: even fun-loving teachers can have a bad day, and sometimes it is better to sit back quietly and wait for another opportunity.
  • There is a difference between mischief and bad behaviour. Remember Dick and Dom’s motto: “Naughty but nice.”

This is an article from the 22 July edition of TES. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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