Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Pupils from minorities have doubled in a decade

The Daily Mail reports that one in four primary schoolchildren is from an ethnic minority - a doubling of the numbers in a decade. The Government's annual school census painted a picture of a changing Britain where one in seven primary pupils speaks English as a second language. In some London boroughs, children who are likely to need extra help with English comprise three-quarters of the primary school population.

Heads' leaders said schools were under mounting pressure from mass immigration and called on ministers to fund them properly to cope with the array of different languages that pupils speak. They said the figures gave the clearest picture yet of the scale of the challenge facing schools in many parts of the country as they integrate children who lack a command of English. The figures, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, revealed how ethnic minority children account for 21.4 per cent of England's 6.5million primary and secondary pupils - up from 11 per cent when Labour came to power in 1997.

In primary schools, the figure is 23.3 per cent - up from 21.9 per cent last year and 11.2 per cent in 1997. The biggest group of ethnic minority pupils were classed as Asian, making up 8.9 per cent of primary children and 7.4 per cent of secondary. The numbers from "other white backgrounds" have risen from 74,500 in primary schools in 2004 to 114,900 in the latest census, or 3.5 per cent of total pupils, reflecting arrivals from Eastern Europe and other new EU member states.

Yesterday Mick Brookes, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, stressed that schools welcomed new arrivals but said they too often lacked resources to integrate them properly. "There is mounting pressure because of the continued influx of migrant children," he said. "We are now beginning to get a better idea of the scale of the problem. Unless this is addressed, some schools could reach breaking point."

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

SENCOs must be qualified teachers

All SEN Co-ordinators will have to be fully qualified teachers under new government proposals.

The move will affect the growing number of schools that have given the post to unqualified staff, such as teaching assistants. Under the proposals, by September 2009 all new Sencos will have to be qualified teachers. Those already in the job for at least six months will have until September 2011 to qualify.

Nasen, the professional association for people working in special needs, and the NUT have welcomed the move. But both are unhappy the Government has backed down over plans to make it compulsory for SENCOs to be members of the senior leadership team.

Pumps are booted out

The Daily Mail reports that girls in a Liverpool primary school have been banned from wearing ballet pumps to school because their headmistress thinks the shoes are dangerous.

Flat, slip-on pumps have been in fashion for some time - and are an appealing option for children as they are sold for as little as £3. But the head of one primary school in Liverpool, has told parents that pumps are no longer acceptable in the classroom, as inappropriate footwear can cause unnecessary injuries.

Carol Machell, of Broadgreen Primary, said she was forced to act after a ten-year- old girl slipped while running in the playground and broke her leg. "Some children are wearing shoes that not only are not part of school uniform, but also are highly dangerous when running around in a playground. We cannot take any responsibility for accidents that may happen when children are wearing unsuitable shoes. We want to encourage pupils to run on the playground and we want to make the message clear to parents that these types of shoes for children are dangerous. They are fine for going to a party but not school." Parents were told that children's shoes must be black and have laces, buckles or velcro.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Boys do better without girls

The Daily Mail reports a study of gender difference. Researchers at Bristol University have found that boys do better in single-sex classes. They were found to achieve significantly higher test results at primary level without the distraction of girls.

The study of English lessons in every state school in the country showed that boys' performance fell as the proportion of girl pupils rose. Researchers suggested this was because mixed lessons allowed boys to hide in the background while girls took the initiative and participated more. The findings go against previous studies showing that boys do better in mixed classes because of the civilising affect of female peers.

Steven Proud, who led the Bristol team, said their results implied that boys of all ages would benefit from studying with as few girls as possible present in the same class. He added: "The more girls there are, the less they need to work. That is one supposition. Since girls perform considerably better in English, if there are more girls in the class, they are more likely to volunteer answers, so boys can hide in the background and it still appears the class is doing well. The other possibility is that there is some link between the sex of the teacher and how they focus their teaching. If a female teacher is teaching a lot of female pupils, they could focus their teaching toward girls and that could negatively affect the boys."

He argued that girls tended to be ahead of boys in English and so were more likely to answer questions, raise their hands and behave confidently in lessons.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said that where boys are outnumbered in class they can "feel swamped by high-attaining girls". "English is seen as a girly thing to do but that is wrong," he added. "What schools have to do is look at the subject matter in English and if it appears to have a feminine bias, then they need to look at that and see how it can be changed."

Parents have called for teachers to be trained in dealing with classes where there are gender imbalances. Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said, "I suspect that when there are fewer boys they are not going to feel as confident to put their hands up and are worried they will look silly if they get it wrong."

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Pete's PowerPoint Station

Pete's PowerPoint Station is a fabulous resource with links to PowerPoint slideshows to use in class. Of course, the slideshows are editable so that you can adapt them to your needs.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Parents have little sympathy for strikers

The TES writes about a poll of 750 parents about the NUT strike. Nearly a third said the action had lowered their view of teachers. However, most parents who responded said their opinion remained unchanged.

The online TES/ NCPTA survey showed that 63% of parents believed the Government's 2.45% pay offer was sufficient, or more than teachers deserved.

Christine Blower, the acting general secretary, said she believed teachers still enjoyed the goodwill of parents. "I can't deny there are some parents who are opposed to strike action. But we haven't felt great waves of opprobrium coming in our direction. We haven't done this for 21 years. The post-strike period will tell us whether we can continue the public-sector campaign, which primarily for us is about teachers' pay."

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Free-for-all school meals

The success of a pilot scheme in Hull where all primary pupils received free school meals could see all primary pupils in England receiving free school lunches.

Under the free meals initiative, children were provided with healthy breakfasts, hot lunches, an after-school snack, and fruit up to KS2. Nationally, free fruit is only given to pupils in KS1.

The full report on the pilot scheme, carried out from 2004 to 2007, concluded that the lunches improved pupils' behaviour, social skills and academic results. By the final year of the initiative, more than half of the teachers reported a positive impact on pupils' energy levels, powers of concentration and punctuality. One headteacher told the researchers, "I can now actually spend lunchtimes talking to staff about educational issues, rather than dealing with problems of behaviour in the playground."

Friday, 18 April 2008

Homework has no benefit in primary school

The TES writes that setting homework for primary pupils does not make any difference to their academic achievement, research has shown. A review of 16 years of academic research on homework has concluded that there is little link between how well primary pupils do in national tests and the amount of homework they are set.

By contrast, there was strong evidence that secondary pupils were more likely to get higher grades if they regularly spent time doing their homework.

Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations commented that, "Children get extremely tired mentally and physically at school. Then they have to come home and do more work on top of that. It's counter-productive. While we're making six, seven and eight year olds do extra work, in some countries they wouldn't even have started formal schooling."

The researchers said the effectiveness of homework also depends on what, and how much, is set. Many primary teachers set homework intended to improve time-management and organisational skills, rather than results.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


Just by reading the name of this website you can imagine what it might be - Wikimapia is a cross between Wikipedia and Google Earth! You can search for places and then click on them to read about them. There is still a lot left to cover if anyone would like to add more. But this would be really useful for geography research and local history projects.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Ofsted's ICT findings

The TES reports on an Ofsted study. ICT is used to good effect to increase children's confidence and improve their attitudes to learning. Particular gains were noted for pupils for whom English is an additional language, and pupils with learning difficulties.

Teachers have made 'great strides' in the foundation stage and KS1 by using ICT to develop children's independence and creativity. But the momentum was sometimes lost in KS2, inspectors said.

Pupils' achievement was good in about a third of primary schools, but unsatisfactory in one in 10. Primaries are well equipped, but teacher training has not kept pace, meaning that computers and other equipment are not used to their full potential. And more account should be taken of pupils' experience of ICT outside school.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


I've spent this weekend doing absolutely nothing work related! I need some time to recover as this week we have had our Ofsted inspection...

All my plans for trying hard to keep a work-life balance had all been spoiled by lunchtime on our first day back. We gathered in the staffroom to hear the news that Ofsted had called. They were due to come in on Thursday.

Now, I know that this a short notice inspection is good because there's no stressful period before. However, it is good to make sure you're on top of your game. So I have had little sleep and carried out lots of work this week.

The inspectors were quite friendly and were very fair, taking things on face value. They spoke to the children and did little classroom observation (guess which lucky teacher didn't even get watched!). They spoke to the children and looked at displays. The vast majority of the time was spent with the headteacher. I was a little worried about the SMT meeting (in my last Ofsted in 2001 I was 2 months into my career, so this would be a lot bigger) but even this was fine. The inspectors did ask for year 2 and 6 books to be left out (a sample from each ability range) so that they could be 'scrutinised'.

The feedback at the end was very pleasing!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Test preparation turns pupils off science

The TES writes that pupils in England are being 'turned off science' by months of test preparation in their last year of primary school. A report by the Wellcome Trust found that practical work was often marginalised in the spring term of Year 6 becuase of the foucs on revision.

The study says, "Test preparation in its current form contributed little to pupils; understanding. The sole purpose was to equip pupils with sufficient factual knowledge and scientific terminology to answer written questions on science test papers."

One teacher reported sometimes having to stop pupils' investigations mid-flow becuase they had covered all the test objectives and needed to move on to more revision. Some staff, however, said testing was good for some pupils. One said, "Behaviour improves and they work hard."

Test preparation is not the only reason schools find it difficult to focus on practical experiments. 34% of those surveyed complained about a lack of resources, while 23% bemoaned a general lack of time.

I agree with the findings of this completely. Year Six teachers know that in order to do well in the Science SATs, it requires a few weeks of abandoning practical work to focus on theory. Behaviour improves because of the variety of revision to keep the children interested. How can we teach science more practically without the resources and technician-help available at high schools?

Friday, 11 April 2008

Teacher training should be quadrupled

The TES writes that teacher training should be quadrupled, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). It recommends that, in order to become world class, England's schools system needs better teaching by receiving 20 days in-service training per year.

It wants to see teacher pay rises more closely linked to the levels of training and decisions about what course they go to taken away from schools and given to teachers.

Julia Margo, associate director of the IPPR, said that an analysis of GCSE results had shown that, once a child's background was taken into account, the quality of their teacher was the single most important factor determining the pupil's performance, beating other variables such as class size. She said, "If we had really effective teachers then we would not be performing so poorly internationally. The buck stops with teachers. If you want a world-class education system, you need to be investing your money on the training and development of your workforce, not on teacher pay."

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Year Six Teacher Forum

I have created a Forum for Year Six Teachers. Please feel free to start topics and add posts. The address is

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Teacher Led

There are lots of really good interactive Maths activities at Teacher A really useful website.

Year Six Teacher Netvibes

I have created a Year Six Teacher Netvibes homepage. This will be your one stop shop for teaching news, blog updates, links and more. I am just beginning to get my head around it all, so be aware that this will gradually evolve quite drastically!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Using blogs in the classroom

Here are a few original ways to show how blogs are used in the classroom.

St Vincent's Y5 & 6 blog - This blog has regular updates for the children in years 5 and 6 at this school. It's updated weekly and it features updates about what the pupils have done in school that week. It also features links to games and other websites connected with their studies.

Oak1 at Shirley Warren Primary School - This is a writing blog. The teacher uploads the children's writing and photos to the blog to display their work. Pupils and parents can then read their work from their English lessons.

Mr Jennings' Class - This blog is updated every couple of days and acts as a sort of diary of what the children have studied in the last couple of days. Great for communicating with parents!

Does anyone else use blogs in the classroom? Does anyone use them in any other effective ways?

Countdown - Beat the clock

I found this website - a dream come true! How to cheat at Countdown!! This will solve the numbers game, letters game and conundrums for the TV show. It even tells you the difficulty rating!

You could also use this to create challenges for children in lessons.

Sparkle Box 2

Sparkle Box has had such a wonderful reaction from everyone in the TES forums and other blogs. Some of my colleagues have also used the KS1 version. So I guess I am late in highlighting Sparkle Box for KS2. But this is a fabulous site with lots of free resources and some high quality items available to buy. There are some good deals at the moment for resource disks.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

UK Teachers' Forums

The UK Teachers' Forums are a great place to discuss anything school related.

I wish there was a complete forum dedicated to Primary Schools, and Year 6 teachers in particular. I have no idea how to set one up. Maybe this is something I could look into...

Teachers' Strike is announced by NUT

The Times reports that hundreds of schools will be forced to close this month when teachers hold their first national strike in 21 years, in a protest over pay.

The strike, announced by the National Union of Teachers, is the first real challenge to Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary and Gordon Brown’s closest ally. Ministers responded by accusing members of the NUT, largest teaching union, of jeopardising children’s education.

The union is demanding a 4.2 per cent salary rise to match inflation, saying that the current deal is in effect a pay cut. It wants almost double the 2.45 per cent that teachers will receive this year as part of a three-year deal, with 2.3 per cent in 2009 and 2010.

The strike, scheduled for April 24, would be the first since the mid1980s, when repeated industrial action wreaked havoc on lessons. It is timed to take place a week before local government elections and will hit thousands of schools in England and Wales in the build-up to exams.

Sources at the union said it would talk to the Government until the last minute, potentially allowing an eleventh-hour resolution. But officials at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said that there would be no concessions or compromise.

More than three quarters of those who voted were in favour of the strike but, at 32 per cent, the turnout was considerably lower than that for other recent strike votes in the public sector.

Last night there seemed little indication that the NUT was willing to escalate its action if its demands were not met. Steve Sinnott, the union’s general secretary, said: “We’re not planning further action at this stage, just one day of action.” Mr Sinnott denied that the strike would alienate parents, saying: “Many of them remember the days of teacher shortages and retention problems, which coincided with below-inflation salaries.”

Other teaching unions are unlikely to join the strike. John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Lecturers, said: “I am disappointed that the NUT has voted in favour of strike action over a pay award that represents a good deal for teachers in the present climate.” Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The majority of members recognise that, compared with other public sector workers, they have fared relatively well.”
Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he did not think that a strike would persuade the Government to increase its offer.

Teachers’ pay has increased significantly under Labour. A newly qualified teacher in 1997 started on £14,000. Today, the figure is closer to £21,000. A teacher at the top of the classroom pay scale in 1997 received £21,318 but would now be on £34,281.

As a member of the NUT I am really uncomfortable with the idea of a strike. I think it is unfair that three-quarters of the 32% who voted (that's 24% of the NUT membership) want to strike and therefore we are all expected to strike. The recent pay award to teachers was above the awards given to other members of the public sector. A few years ago 10% PPA time was brought in to help reduce teachers' workload. And now the NUT is calling for a 10% pay rise? Who will lose out in the strike - the children. Is it fair to cancel a day of their education? What will parents think - many of whom earn less than teachers - when we start demanding more money? A common joke is that teachers work from 9 to 3.30 each day and have 13 weeks holiday a year. Anyone with any common sense knows this is utterly false. But is this strike going to really reflect well on the profession in other people's eyes?

Having said all this, I fully understand the reasons for the strike. The pay rise is less than inflation and will be even less over the next couple of years when inflation could rise. Teachers will lose out.

There are some interesting debates about the strike at the TES forums:
Debate 1
Debate 2 is a Netvibes home page full of useful teaching links, feeds and other useful widgets.

Recycle Zone

The Recycle Zone website does exactly what it says on the tin - it teaches pupils (and teachers) all about Recycling.

Paper Models of Polyhedra

Ever heard of a Great Rhombihexacron? I bet you've never made one! At this great website you can download PDFs to make all sorts of 3D shapes. Fascinating and great for extending Year Sixes!