Today’s news review includes stories about A level take-up across the country, evidence heard by the Women and Equalities Select Committee on incidents of alleged sexual harassment in schools and an Ofsted letter on East Midlands school performance.
A level take-up
On Wednesday, 8 June, the New Schools Network published new analysis looking at areas of the country that have the lowest numbers of young people studying A levels, claiming there is a deep-seated problem in ensuring that young people in poorer areas are able to take A levels.
The New Schools Network’s analysis is inaccurate as it only takes into account those young people that studied within their own borough and fails to acknowledge those students that travel to a different area to study, therefore creating an unrealistic picture of the areas they say have a low take-up. The figures suggest that 48 16-to-18 year olds in 2015 which lived in Knowsley studied A levels, when in fact the actual figure is 654.
BBC Online is the only outlet to cover the story using the figures to highlight the regional differences in the proportion of pupils studying A levels.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
These figures are completely misleading – they do not reflect those young people who study A levels in a neighbouring borough, the actual levels of participation are far higher because many will choose to study in other areas. The primary reason the uptake of A levels differs from area to area is because demand varies across the country. Where there is demand, provision is always available.
We want to see high quality A level provision across the country so that all children have access to a good education. Our ambitious reforms are driving up standards and spreading educational excellence everywhere – a key part of this is ensuring post-16 providers have the resources they need to ensure young people can reach their full potential, and leave well prepared for life in modern Britain with the skills that employers value.
On Tuesday, 7 June, the Women and Equalities Select Committee held an evidence session as part of its ongoing inquiry into sexual harassment in schools. During the session, calls were made by a number of experts for children as young as four to be taught about sexism, harassment and sexual abuse.
The Guardian covers the story today focusing on the comments made regarding children as young as four being taught about sexism and harassment, while the Sun and Daily Mail look at calls to make sex education compulsory and for four-year-olds to be taught about this issue to stop children being abused.
A Government spokesperson said:
We welcome this inquiry, and are playing a full part in it. We know that teachers and schools are already doing excellent work on this issue, but no young person should be made to feel unsafe or suffer harassment in any circumstance. Schools are safe places and fortunately crime in schools is very rare but sexual assault of any kind is an offence and must always be reported to the police.
Sex and relationship education is already compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and we expect academies and free schools to teach it as part of the curriculum. We are also working with leading headteachers and practitioners to look at how to raise the quality of PSHE teaching, which includes sex and relationship education.
East Midlands school performance
The Guardian ran a story today based on a letter from Ofsted’s regional director to East Midlands MPs, local authorities, multi-academy trusts and dioceses to highlight the poor performance of the region.
We have made clear that we want to ensure all pupils are receiving a good education and have announced a series of ambitious reforms in our recent White Paper to tackle underperformance and drive up standards.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
Every child deserves a great education and that’s why our White Paper has spreading educational excellence everywhere at its heart.
The East Midlands has improved drastically since our reforms began and there are now 119,000 more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 – an increase greater than the English average. This is a testament to the hard work of teachers across the region in implementing our reforms.
But some parts of the country are not yet good enough. That is why, in common with other areas of underperformance, we are working with groups like Teach First to place great teachers where they are needed most, returning power back to the profession through our White Paper reforms and introducing schemes like the National Teaching Service which will develop even more brilliant leaders.
Find out more about our White Paper reforms.