Today’s news review looks at coverage of an announcement on mental health provision in schools, further coverage of plans to create more grammar school places and coverage of the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Today, Monday 9 January, the Prime Minister announced plans to improve children’s mental health provision. These include a plan to offer all schools free training in mental health support with the aim of every school training a staff member by the end of 2019.
The plans have been covered widely with an opinion piece from the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, running in today’s Times Red Box and pieces in the Daily Mail, I/Independent, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC, and others.
Coverage in the Times details the Prime Minister putting Britain’s schools “on the front line” in the fight for good child mental health. The piece calls the announcement a victory. The Daily Mail focuses on the fact that teachers will be trained to spot the signs of cyberbullying.
On Sunday, 8 January, the Observer reported that under one per cent of current grammar school pupils are in receipt of free school meals and that because this figure is lower than that in the general population, it means grammar schools cannot be an engine for social mobility.
However, the piece fails to take into account that the Government’s plans are not for an extension of the old system of grammar schools but for a new model, one which will compel any new grammar schools to ensure they benefit all children, regardless of their background.
Grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap to almost zero between children on free school meals and their better off classmates; indeed, a study by the University of Bristol and included in a review by the Sutton Trust found the educational gain from attending a grammar school to be around twice as high (7-8 GCSE grades) for FSM pupils as for all pupils (around 3.5 grades).
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Thanks to the government’s education reforms, almost 1.8 million more children are in schools that are rated good or outstanding than in 2010.
We are determined to go further so that all children, whatever their background, can go as far as their talents will take them. The proposals we have set out and consulted on include lifting the ban on new grammars and allowing more grammar school places to be created where parents want them, but only on the basis that strict conditions are met to ensure that they contribute to the improvement of the wider schools system – and ensuring new and existing selective schools prioritise the admission of lower income pupils.
Along with our proposals to harness the resources and expertise of universities, faith schools and independent schools, this will create more choice, with more good school places, for more parents, in more parts of the country.
Higher Education and Research bill
The Sunday Telegraph reported that academics are concerned that the HE and Research Bill will force universities to pander to students’ demands. The piece says there are fears that universities will have to acquiesce to students’ demands even if they are unreasonable because student satisfaction is to become central to rankings. We are introducing a strong regulatory system under the Office for Students (OfS) which will ensure that universities are delivering consistent standards of teaching for their students and take strong action where students are not receiving the quality education they rightfully expect.
Furthermore, the National Student Survey is a robust measure of student feedback that has been widely used in the sector for over ten years. It is right that it should form part of our assessment of teaching, alongside other critical measures such as drop-out rates and graduate employment.
A Department for Education spokesperson:
We want more young people to have the opportunity to access a high-quality university education, and the measures proposed in the Higher Education and Research Bill are critical to making this possible.
The Bill will protect and enshrine the autonomy and academic freedom of Higher Education institutions in law. And it puts students at the heart of the system, with the Office for Students making universities rightly more accountable to their students so they get the best value for money. The new Teaching Excellence Framework will help raise the quality of teaching and almost all English universities, including those in the Russell Group, have confirmed that they intend to take part in the second year.
Since the introduction of the Bill last May, we have been listening carefully to the views of students, universities, academics and parliamentarians and have tabled amendments to the Bill based on their feedback.