Education News Weekly – 3rd November 2016
A skills gap in school leavers, Gay History Month, and why our schools are a force for social cohesion
The funding gap in British education is getting worse, it seems, with a recent announcement that almost 1,000 local authority schools and over 100 academy trusts are now in debt. Heads and teachers have long been complaining about funding issues, with schools warning they will need to lay off staff or cut hours if something isn’t done soon, as budgets fail to keep up with rising costs. This comes after the heads of West Sussex schools recently wrote a letter to the government saying they’re in a ‘dire financial position’, and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has called the funding crisis a ‘national scandal’. General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Kevin Courtney called on the government to provide ‘immediate additional funding’, continuing ‘School budgets are being cut to the bone… We estimate that 92% of schools in England could face real terms budget cuts over the next four years.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he believes that Gay History Month should be introduced in schools, as there is currently no obligation for schools to include LGBT history or issues on the curriculum. Corbyn pledged that a Labour government would include LGBT rights, history and important figures on the national curriculum, going as far as saying it should simply be part of the core curriculum, of literature and history, and not treated as something separate. Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, Programmers Manager for LGBT charity Stonewall, said it would be fantastic for more schools to mark LGBT History month, but believes first ‘we must see age-appropriate compulsory and inclusive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools, so that all pupils can make safe and informed decisions about their relationships and wellbeing. So while a month is a great start, we’re working towards an inclusive curriculum where everyone is free to be themselves.’
A survey by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants reveals that 80% of school leavers ‘lack essential business skills’, including numeracy. 80% of school leavers require ‘significant training’ before they are fit to work, according to 4000 finance professionals who were questioned – up from 75% last year. The top areas of weakness were people skills, business skills and technical skills. 90% of the respondents identified the skills gap in new employees as increasing their workload, while 66% said it had increased staff stress levels, and 44% believe it caused a drop in departmental performance. One reason suggested for this drop in standards, leaving students ill-equipped, is the frequency of government changes and new ideas over the last few years, many of which have been either ill-conceived, or not properly carried through.
A shortage of qualified nursery school teachers in the UK has left a quarter of a million children at risk of falling behind their peers in early educational development, which could impact their future prospects into adulthood. A Save The Children report says an extra 10,000 trained early years staff are required if all children are to reach their potential, and not fall behind by the time they reach school, compared to children with a qualified nursery teacher. A combination of low pay and few promotion opportunities has caused a huge drop off in the number of people applying for nursery teaching roles, the charity claims.
Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw believes that UK schools are ‘great forces for social cohesion’ in a way that he believes is not the case in other European countries. He identified the UK as being unique, as a country where children of immigrants tend to do better at school than those of non-immigrants, stressing that ‘Our schools are remarkable escalators of opportunity,’ unlike those in Germany, Italy, France, Finland and Switzerland. ‘Whatever cultural tensions exist outside school… All children are taught equally,’ he continued ‘Schools are the places where communities integrate. Schools provide the glue that helps hold our society together’. Wilshaw also announced that, for all their problems, British schools have ‘improved immeasurably’ over the last few decades, but warned a return to the grammar school system would be a ‘monumental mistake’
And finally… Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, the town at at the centre of a widespread child abuse scandal, believes that age-appropriate sex education should be taught to children as young as five. This will also help at risk children identify potentially abusive relationships, and give children the knowledge to challenge and contextualise material they may encounter online or in the media.
For more information on this week’s stories:
Jeremy Corbyn promotes LGBT issues and Gay History Month – Independent
Labour MP – sex education must start younger – Guardian
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.