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Welcome to Dean Associates’ round-up of the top education stories in the UK.
Tuition fees to rise to £9000
Following Lord Browne’s review of university tuition fees – currently capped at £3290 per year – the Government is set up to propose that universities can charge up to £9000 per year from 2012.
This will herald a transfer of university funding from “state to student” and is set against a backdrop of a £3 billion cut in the higher education teaching budget outlined in the Government’s October 2010 Spending Review.
The Russell Group of leading universities described the decision as a “life-saving transfusion of money.”
Many students, and some of the newer universities, view it as burdening the next generation with debt and another barrier for children of poorer families to make it into university.
Major school funding change proposed
The Government is looking to centralise the way in which funding for England’s 20,000 state schools is allocated.
Local authorities have managed school budgets for over a century. The new form will give headteachers more authority to decide their priorities.
Proponents of the change state that it will even out inequalities. Currently, two schools in different parts of the country but with a similar social and economic intake can receive vastly different funding sums.
Critics – headed up by the main teachers’ union and local authority representatives – say that centralisation will create more red tape and make the system insensitive to local needs.
Review of primary school exams
The Government has announced a review of primary school exams in England.
At present children sit SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) in English, Maths and Science in Years 2 and 6. The Year 6 results are published and are often used as a guide to a school’s worth by parents.
Last year many schools boycotted the Year 6 SATs, insisting that too much teaching is aimed at prepping pupils for the exams rather than more productive education.
The review will focus on whether the SATs can be improved, yet still maintaining statistical basis to help benchmark childrens’ attainment levels and to provide information on school performance to parents.
Under-performing schools to be turned into academies
The Government has announced that all under-performing schools should be turned into academies. He has asked councils to draw up “black lists” of the worst schools to place under consideration.
Academy schools were founded by the previous Labour administration, with autonomy from the local education authorities, and control over management and budget.
Welsh schools falling behind?
Research from the University of Bristol has concluded that Welsh secondary schools are performing worse since league tables were scrapped in 2001.
The end of “naming and shaming” the worst schools has taken away the incentive to improve performance, the study suggested.
It goes on to say that English children are now more likely to do well at GCSE in comparison to their English peers.
Basic skills failing in Northern Ireland?
There is growing concern in Northern Ireland that children are leaving school without basic literacy and numeracy skills.
It comes on the back of published statistics which highlighted that 60% of sign-ups for adult courses designed to provide basic maths and reading skills were from the 16-19 year group.
Nearly 40% of the Northern Irish workforce has no qualifications, as opposed to a UK-wide average of 19%.
Educators are wondering whether pupils show now stay in primary school until they have achieved these basic skills.
Many relocating families are currently facing long delays when applying for state school places.
Families placing “in-year” applications – those made outside the normal admissions points of Reception, Year 3 and Year 7 – are finding that councils take up to four weeks to respond to their application. The problem is at its worst in London and the south-east but is being mirrored across the country.
At the heart of the problem are the councils that now handle school admissions in most areas. They appear to be overwhelmed by the workload of managing the applications. There is also evidence of institutional inefficiency and incompetence, with lost applications and paperwork sitting on desks gathering dust.
One inner-city council worker told me last week, “we are overwhelmed by the number of applications that arrive with us each day, we have to phone the schools for each application and don’t have enough staff for the job.”
This particular council had not processed an application that arrived nearly three months ago.
In some areas, for example Hampshire, local authorities have recognised the level of the challenge and have passed control of admissions back to schools. Historically, when schools handle their own entry, applications can be turned around in as little as one or two days.
However, relocating families, and their employers, will need to factor in such delays when planning a move, especially if they are intending to move during the school holidays.
Welcome to Dean Associates’ March 2011 newsletter highlighting the key education stories for the relocation market.
You can now also follow us on Twitter at @educationda bringing you the key education news and comment as it breaks.
Change in Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Provision for special educational needs (SEN) is facing its “biggest change in three decades” if government reforms are passed.
Ministers want to replace statements – the documents that agree and set out individual children’s needs – with education and health care plans drawn up after a single assessment.
The aim is to remove the heavy burden of bureaucracy that leaves many parents exhausted in their quest to find the right level of support for their children. This is often worse for the families moving into the UK who have children with SEN.
But there are warnings that spending cuts will hit any improvements and that what looks sensible on paper will be impossible to implement on the ground under current conditions.
One in five pupils in England – some 1.7 million children – is believed to have some form of special needs.
More English Universities to charge the full £9000 tuition fee
Oxford University and the University of Surrey are planning to raise tuition fees to the maximum level of £9,000 per year – balanced by a package of fee subsidies and bursaries.
Six universities have announced that they intend to charge the maximum fee level from the autumn of 2012. It is looking likely that the majority of other institutions will follow this lead.
EU students could be charged higher tuition fees in Scotland
Students from other EU countries could be charged to study in Scotland, the education secretary has revealed.
The SNP government, if elected, would also increase fees to students from other parts of the UK.
Scottish students studying at home currently pay no tuition fees, while other UK students at Scottish universities pay about £1,900 per year.
Under EU rules, students coming to Scotland from other European countries have to be treated in the same way as Scottish students. This has seen a large increase in the number of applicants from both other UK and EU countries.
Change in visa laws hits overseas students
Proposals by the government to limit the number of overseas students coming to Britain could “cripple” the prosperous education sector, a cross-party Commons committee has declared.
The move to curb the annual flow of 300,000 students into Britain is based on a Conservative pledge to reduce net annual migration from outside Europe. Currently, international students make up nearly three-quarters of that migration.
Critics have said that the government should recognise that students, through tuition fees and other spending, benefit Britain economically, and contribute to enhancing the UK’s place in the world.
Wolf review of vocational education
Hundreds of thousands of young people are doing vocational courses which do not lead to university or a job says a review of vocational education led by the academic Dr Alison Wolf.
The review, commissioned by ministers, recommends a radical shake-up of vocational education in England.
It says all pupils should study a core of academic subjects until they are 16.
Her report says: “The staple offer for between a quarter and a third of the post-16 cohort is a diet of low-level vocational qualifications, most of which have little to no labour market value.
Among 16 to 19 year olds, the review estimates that at least 350,000 get little to no benefit from the post-16 education system.”