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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.