Today’s Education in the media blog looks at the department's trials on effective ways to deal with pupil behaviour, mental health at universities and our reformed GCSEs.
Yesterday, Sunday 24 June, the Sunday Times ran a piece on the department’s plans to run pilots on whether young children can self-regulate emotions, which the pieces brands a ‘tantrum test’.
To be clear, the assessments at this stage are a pilot only; the department regularly runs pilots to test the effectiveness of initiatives, as a litmus test for whether they should be rolled out in full.
The plans are part of a wider pilot on improved measures to support children’s early development in language and vocabulary in Reception year. The pilot will help to address the problem of children arriving at school struggling with language and social skills, helping to close the so-called ‘word gap’ – the gap between disadvantaged children’s communication and that of their peers when they start school. The pilots have a wide range of backing from a number of organisations and relevant groups and we are looking forward to the outcomes.
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
We want to improve education for every child and the early years in a child’s life are critical in laying strong foundations for future success. That is why we want to free up more time for Reception teachers to interact with their pupils, and make sure they are developing the rich vocabulary, skills and behaviours they need to thrive at school and in later life.
The schools taking part in this pilot will help test these proposals, designed to cut down the burden of paperwork that exists with the current system. Teachers have the best understanding of their pupils, so it’s absolutely right that we empower them to use and trust their own professional judgment based on what they see.
The Department for Education has worked extensively with teachers, unions and experts from across early years, schools and child development to ensure proposals are based on the latest evidence and reflect feedback from practitioners. Support has been received from a wide range of experts.
Jan Dubiel, National Director of Early Excellence, said:
I am pleased that the Department is engaging in such a thorough and robust consultative process in developing these reforms. I applaud the fact that they are ensuring that the proposals are tested and shaped by the actual reception teachers who will use the new Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. This will ensure the reforms are informed by best practice and the expertise of practitioners – especially Reception teachers – themselves.
The new Early Learning Goals remain in the spirit of the original, internationally renowned Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), focusing on the core skills, knowledge, understanding and behaviours that children need in order to thrive and develop successfully – and I am confident this has the potential to result in positive changes and ensure that practitioners continue to deliver in a holistic approach to children’s learning and development.
Julie McCulloch, Interim Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
Early years teachers are weighed down by the unnecessary burden of collecting lots of evidence for the foundation stage moderation process. So we are pleased the government is launching a pilot project aimed at reducing this workload and freeing up teacher time to focus on what matters most – teaching.
We also welcome the emphasis on language and communication skills in the revised early learning goals. This is the essential building block on which so much learning is based and a vital element in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. We welcome the government’s approach to introducing these reforms through extensive consultation and evaluation to ensure the best outcome for children.
James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, the union for middle leaders, said:
We are pleased to see that the government has prioritised reducing teacher workload as part of these reforms. Excessive evidence gathering, especially for moderation purposes, has for too long been a major burden for many reception class teachers. We hope that these reforms mean that reception teachers are freed up to focus more on the core business of teaching and learning.
We also welcome the message that this is a genuine pilot. We are pleased that schools themselves will be able to directly shape the development of this policy and ensure that government have clear feedback before any decisions are taken on a potential national roll-out.
Yesterday, Sunday 24 June, the Sunday Times ran an article on private schools choosing to use the international GCSE rather than the reformed GCSE developed by the department over the past several years.
The paper reports that the decision is based on fears that state pupils could end up with worse exam results, stopping them from getting into top universities. We announced in 2014 that once the reformed GCSEs are introduced, unreformed and international GCSEs in the same subject will no longer count in performance tables. This is because we want to ensure pupils benefit from the reformed GCSEs which are the gold standard qualification at 16, in line with expected standards in countries with the highest performing education systems.
The department has reformed GCSEs and A Levels to put our education on a par with the best in the world, and to work on improving education standards.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We have reformed GCSEs to put them on a par with the best in the world so young people have the knowledge and skills they need to prepare them for future success and deliver the skills Britain needs to be fit for the future.
These new qualifications provide more rigorous content, greater stretch for the highest performers and are better preparation for studying A levels, which are the main qualifications universities use when considering offers. We no longer recognise IGCSEs in our league tables as they have not been through the same approval and quality control process as the new gold standard GCSEs.
Today, The Times has an interview in their supplement with Minister Gyimah, where he has discussed mental health at universities. The piece notes that he will be hosting a summit on mental health this week, and how universities should be acting in place of a parent for their students whilst they study there. The minister notes that he is looking at “how the laws around data and informing next of kin work to see what we can do to make this more of a possibility.”
To read about the department’s new reception assessment plans, read our blog post on the subject.