Schools

Academies, religion & schools, class sizes, remodelling, testing and tables, ...

Primary education: a better way

Author: 

Pat Yarker

In January 2008 Ed Balls appointed Sir Jim Rose to review the current Primary curriculum and recommend changes for implementation from September 2011. Jim Rose, a distinguished professor of education, has reported for this government before. In 2006 his review of the teaching of reading was seized on by education ministers to justify imposing on teachers despite much opposition a single method to teach children to read. A decade and a half earlier, Rose was one of the ‘Three Wise Men’ tasked by the Tories with reporting on the state of England’s Primary schools.

If it wins the next General Election New Labour will reform the educational offer made to state primary school pupils. Pat Yarker reports on a challenge to the government’s line of march.

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PFI-linked scheme collapses in Northamptonshire

Author: 

Northamptonshire "Save Our Services"

Barratt Homes has pulled out of its agreement with Northants County Council to purchase 18 school sites and playing fields.

More collapses of such deals, and of PFI contracts, must be likely in the coming months, as contractors find it harder to raise the credit required.

Northamptonshire "Save Our Services" states: "Northants County Council... PFI deal... method of financing new schools... guarantees the PFI speculators high profits over thirty-two years while at the same time charges us, the public, £865 million for capital projects costing only £235 million.

Barratt Homes has pulled out of its agreement with Northants County Council to purchase 18 school sites and playing fields.

Trade Unions: 

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Mobilise to end high-stakes school-testing!

Author: 

Patrick Yarker

Staff and students begin a new school-year with business unfinished from the old one. The system for marking public tests undergone by eleven and fourteen year olds in England’s state schools spectacularly imploded in the early Summer. Thousands of test-papers went unmarked and results were delivered weeks late to many schools. Some staff will be discovering the full extent of the chaos and incompetence which plagued this year’s tests only now, as they face the arduous task of reviewing returned scripts and considering whether to spend precious time and money on the appeals process.

What next after the public test debacle of the summer?

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Against the "National Challenge"!/ Abolish SATS

Against the “National Challenge”

The National Challenge scheme, launched in June 2008, is supposed to push up school standards.

Schools have been threatened with being forced to convert into Academies, and could face the loss of specialist status and the removal of funding. The 638 National Challenge schools were selected on the basis that fewer than 30 per cent of their students have achieved five or more A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.

Threat to force schools to convert into Academies/ SATS debacle

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SCHOOLBOOKS

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

SCHOOLBOOKS

We bought schoolbooks in Ennis classrooms then:
Penny by penny the poorest paid. My mother
Would skimp on call; others found it too much bother,

An incident in an Irish school

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Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Get a life — building action on workload

Author: 

Pat Murphy

If you ask teachers what the worst aspect of their job is, a very big majority will point to excessive workload. We know this because they have been asked by trade unions and by academic researchers on a regular basis.

In particular, research commissioned by government to identify why so many people leave the job consistently shows that workload is a crucial factor. Teacher trade unions are aware of the importance of this issue but have taken two diametrically opposed paths in dealing with it.

If you ask teachers what the worst aspect of their job is, a very big majority will point to excessive workload.

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Education: the world’s biggest industry

Author: 

Tom Unterrainer

“Teachers are proletarians. Indeed, it has been some time now since a significant number of teachers owned their own means of production; in order to survive they sell their labour power…”

Beverly J. Silver, Forces of Labour: Workers’ Movements and Globaliation since 1870

 

“Teachers are proletarians. Indeed, it has been some time now since a significant number of teachers owned their own means of production; in order to survive they sell their labour power…”

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Push back the “new management”

Author: 

Tim Hales

I am a local officer of Leeds NUT. One of our biggest sources of casework is workplace bullying. It is also one of the most depressing and frustrating aspects of our work because it is very difficult to protect individual members from systematic intimidation by school managers, and the problem grows like a malignant tumour.

As trade unionists we have to promote an attitude of collective self defence in every school, every hospital, shop, workyard and factory.

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Central Foundation Girls' School workers win

On Tuesday 27 March, facing the threat of a solid strike, management at Central Foundation Girls’ School in East London backed down on their threat of compulsory redundancies.

Support staff at the school had voted by a huge 94% in a legal ballot to take strike action. The following is a report written before the management backed down.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Trade Unions: 

End choice to end inequality

Some other issues need to be considered in the light of the debate over the lottery system.
The best predictor of a school's educational achievement is, apparently, the proportion of students getting free school dinners. It should come as no surprise that, within a class society, the most important factor in education is social class.
No education system can magic this fact away until socialism abolishes class society.

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No school lottery! A good local school for every child

Brighton’s schools have hit the headlines with the row over a lottery system for admissions to secondary schools.
The plans for a lottery have lead to local protests and splits in the Labour group on the council.
Under the new scheme that narrowly won through, those in the new catchment areas for local schools will be able to go to the schools allotted to them, but where there are two schools in the catchment area and one school is oversubscribed children will enter a ballot to decide who gets the school of their choice.

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Andrew Adonis is a Tory

Andrew Adonis (I somehow can't bring myself to call himself 'Lord') has opened his big, right-wing gob again. This time, he tells us that the closure of grammar schools in the 1960s and '70s was a backward step that "reinforced class divisions" rather than helping those less well off.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

'Business leaders' to run schools?

A government-commissioned report has recommended that schools be allowed to appoint business leaders in place of qualified head teachers. To run a school, you will no longer need to know anything about teaching, or about children - heaven forbid. A robust knowledge of profit-and-loss will do fine, perhaps with additional 'desirable qualities' of bashing the 'competition' (presumably meaning other schools), bullying staff and attacking unions.

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New Labour and special needs education

By a Tower Hamlets teaching assistant

Ruth Kelly’s government has been instrumental in closing down, wholesale, special schools in line with a policy called “inclusion”. The idea was that students with special needs would do better if included in mainstream schools.

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No fees! No levies! No private schools! Free schooling for all!

Free state education? When my two daughters started year 11 and year 8, respectively, at a state high school this week, it cost me $700; and there'll be another $200 bill coming soon, for year 8 camp.
$50 of the costs was an extra, for one of the girls doing instrumental music. The rest were basics: $195 each textbook levy, $160 for a graphics calculator for year 11 maths, $20 for a scientific calculator, $90 for stationery.

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Around the world: 

Able to teach?

Can a Teaching Assistant carry out her job in the classroom whilst wearing a niqab? Being prepared to take it off when no male is present does not resolve the issue. Men work in schools.

A TA can quell unruly behaviour with a raised eyebrow or a pursed lip. A student gets a clear message from facial expressions. They get reassurance that, though we don’t approve of what they just did, we don’t think they are nasty people. You can’t do that without showing your face.

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When school students fought the system

By Colin Foster

From the Blairites, and from further to the right, we hear more and more about “restoring discipline” and “restoring old-fashioned standards” in schools.

The real chaos generated in some schools by social decay and by incessant “restructuring” from above is being used as a springboard for the re-imposition of more punitive, authoritarian regimes in schools.

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Unison strike at Central Foundation Girls' School, London

From Central Foundation Girls' School Unison: At a branch meeting [on 27 September] our members voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action over the threat of redundancies among admin staff in the school.

The NASUWT and the NUT [teachers' unions] have pledged support, which means that potentially the school could shut during the action.

The Unison Tower Hamlets Branch has also backed our decision and is contacting the regional office to ask them to endorse our dispute.

This is a fantastic response to the proposed restructure of the admin section.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Trade Unions: 

Tests, Tigger and the ‘Hand Signal TM’… Three ways to torture your students

It’s 2.30pm on Friday - just half an hour before the end of a tiring week - and Year Ten are predictably restive. You need to move the lesson on but all attempts to settle the class have failed. Detentions are issued, individuals spoken to and you even attempt the trick of starting to explain from the board in the hope that they’ll all realise what you want them to do. Nothing works. You’ve got one last trick up your sleeve (literally): the ‘Hand Signal TM’.

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Trade Unions: 

Playing truant: the Education Bill and George Galloway

Here is the list of rebels who voted to amend the appalling Education Bill. Several cheers to all of them. I made my feelings on the subject known earlier this year at TUC women's conference.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Fight for comprehensive education!

by Patrick Murphy, newly elected NUT executive member

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference, meeting in Torquay over the Easter bank holiday weekend, confirmed what serious left activists in the union have been saying for some time. The potential for a fight back against the government’s agenda for education exists, but we will not clear the roadblock of our right-wing leadership unless we rebuild and politically renew the left.

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