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(UK) Reforms to raise school standards; only 65% proficient in math/reading/writing

Feb 1, 2022, Planet Radio: Major reforms announced to raise school standards across the UK

Major reforms to the education system are being announced in order to raise the overall standards across schools. The government announced that 'Education Investment Areas' will be prioritised as the location for specialist sixth-form free schools, as part of the Government's Levelling Up Paper. In total, the Department for Education outlined that there were 55 so-called "cold spots", where grade outcomes are lower than average. The Department for Education said that as “95% of these areas are outside London and the South East, it is the struggling schools of the North, Midlands, East of England and South West that will be receiving much more support over the next decade”. Some of the areas highlighted as 'Education Investment Areas' include the Isle of Wight, Rochdale and parts of Yorkshire and Sunderland. The DfE confirmed that teachers would be offered a “levelling up premium” to improve retention, while £200 million would be assigned to the Government’s Troubled Families programme, as announced last year in the Spending Review. The scheme will outline that schools in the 55 areas that have been judged less than “good” in successive Ofsted inspections “could be moved into strong multi-academy trusts, to attract more support and the best teachers”. It will also set a target of 90% of pupils leaving primary school in England to reach the expected standard of reading, writing and maths in 2030. In 2019, only 65% of schoolchildren were proficient in all three. Schools in the areas will be supported to address other issues such as attendance and will be “encouraged” to join a new pilot programme to monitor this. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said it was the Government's aim to provide equal opportunities to unleash their potential. “This White Paper sets out our blueprint for putting skills, schools and families at the heart of levelling up. It focuses on putting great schools in every part of the country, training that sets you up for success in a high-skilled, well-paid career and ensuring no-one misses out on opportunities simply because of where they live or their family background," he said. “Raising our expectations and aspirations for children, as well as creating a high-skilled workforce, will end the brain drain that sees too many people leaving communities in order to succeed. “These plans will help create a level playing field and boost the economy, both locally and nationally.” However, some headteachers have argued that the new sixth forms would primarily help pupils who are already high-achieving. Speaking about the new changes, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said that the new schools could stretch resources even further. “We are not so sure about the idea of setting up ‘new elite sixth forms’. This sounds like they will serve children who already do very well and could put pressure on existing provision when the simplest solution would surely be to improve the lamentable state of post-16 funding,” he said. Mr Barton said the children did need more support but that he was unsure the White Paper achieved this, as the most disadvantaged pupils needed help that went “beyond the school gates” to address poverty, while there was a “crying need” for better funding for pupils with special educational needs. “There’s much food for thought in the outline of the Government’s White Paper, but the devil will, as ever, be in the detail. Identifying 55 communities for intensive additional support sounds promising and we look forward to seeing exactly how this will work,” he added.


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