Tag Archives: education

LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsLib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal

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Opinion: Don’t like the exam question? Just cross it out…

The place of religious schools in a secular society is always a subject for debate, but it comes to a head when you discover that some schools are redacting questions in GCSE exam papers because they wouldn’t approve of the answers.

All schools are required to teach the national science curriculum, and are inspected on that basis by Ofsted. We are told that to present creationism as science is not allowed. Yet one school – a Jewish girls’ secondary in this case, but the same question may arise elsewhere – has chosen to cross out questions which offend their sensibilities. …

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Opinion: Extending participation in education must mean extension of free school transport – support motion to Spring Conference NOW

The age of participation in education is rising to 18, so soon every student will have to enter school, college, an apprenticeship or work with training when they finish their GCSEs.

I believe that every young person has the right to access free state education up to year 13. Accessing free education should include the provision of free transport to the most local educational establishment that is right for them.

Last week Nick Clegg was reported on on this site as saying that he would promise young people “ an equal shot” by helping them to make the right choice after taking their …

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Tim Farron MP writes…No politician should be able to sleep at night while children don’t have access to primary school

Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson stood before a joint session of Congress and declared war. “It will not be a short or easy struggle,” he warned the lawmakers. “No single weapon nor strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.” He was talking about a war on poverty – he was saying that a politician can change the world.  That through their words and deeds, they can make a difference and make the world a better place.

President Obama (Number 44 – LBJ was 36) stood up last Wednesday night and gave his annual State of …

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Opinion: Campaign against school attendance policy update

With the fining of Stewart & Natasha Sutherland this week, an update on the campaign to reverse the changes to the attendance policy (see my previous article).

Emma Whiting’s e-petition to 10 Downing St gained almost 50,000 signatures and closed before most parents were aware of the forthcoming changes. Craig Langman, finding himself unable to sign it in September, put up a members’ petition on 38 degrees and it went viral, gaining 127,000 signatures within a few weeks without any media coverage or promotion by 38 degrees. It now has 190,000 signatures. We delivered it to a nervous …

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Opinion: A letter to Michael Gove

Dear Michael,

I hope this finds you well.

A confession.

Unlike Paxman, I’m a fan.

You’re an unusual Tory with unusual origins. And your passion to change education is laudable.

The 1960s Crosland reforms, implemented by your mentor Mrs Thatcher, were supposed to promote social mobility. The reality is mixed. Overall literacy and numeracy have improved. Higher education has become more accessible across class, gender and race.

But this has come at a cost. Some think general mediocrity is better than a few attaining excellence while the majority attain little. I think it’s still mediocrity. Employers lament school-leavers’ inadequate skills. Our performance in the Pisa education …

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Opinion: UKIP – let’s have a debate about low skills

strawberriesThere has been an inconsistency between two highly prominent policy areas that has been niggling away at the back of my mind for quite some time now.  UKIP needs to take note.

So, take two policy areas and also take into account the temperature (at least according to the Daily Mail, etc) of the voters.

The first area is education.  Schools that do not match up to the floor levels at Key Stage 2 and at GCSE are pounced upon by Ofsted.  They require improvement or are put into special measures.  All children must get 5 good GCSEs.  They must progress and they must aspire.  Think of the slogans that populate the UK and US education policy discourse: “no child must be left behind; “every child matters”; and social mobility is regarded and upheld as a kind of rebalancing panacea to address all social ills and help narrow the gap.

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In Full: Nick Clegg’s speech on education – enabling every child to achieve a happy and fulfilling life

Nick Clegg finally gave his much trailed speech on education today. The full version is below. Stephen Tall will give some more detailed commentary later, but for now, here’s a quick summary. There were six main themes

  • Schools should be free from too much Whitehall micromanagement but must meet core standards
  • Positioning Liberal Democrats in centre between Labour who want to interfere in everything and Tories who would be quite happy to have no core standards at all.
  • Parents need reassurance about quality of curriculum, that teachers are qualified and that healthy food is provided whatever type of state funded school their kids

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David Laws writes… Nick Clegg and I have always been clear that Free Schools must also be fair schools

On Thursday this week, Nick Clegg will set out the Liberal Democrat approach to improving standards in schools.

He will set out what parents and pupils should expect from schools. This is an issue we have worked on together for some time, and which was debated and agreed at our party’s conference this Spring.

The Liberal Democrats are instinctive supporters of freedom, diversity and choice. We believe in giving schools more autonomy and teachers more freedom.

That’s why we have supported extra powers to innovate for free schools and academies and have taken steps in government to extend autonomy for all schools. We …

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Two questions journalists aren’t asking about Nick Clegg’s free schools speech

Nick Clegg’s speech on free schools – setting out the policy approved by the Lib Dem conference last March – has ruffled feathers. Apparently he and David Cameron even had lunch yesterday to discuss this ‘bombshell’ announcement (which in fact won’t be made until a speech this Thursday).

My view (as I set out here on Sunday) is that schools should have the freedom to appoint teachers who lack formal qualifications, though I’d expect these to be the exceptions not the rule in the vast majority of state-funded schools. But I don’t think it’s at all surprising that Nick …

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Clegg on free schools and National Curriculum: no more, no less than party policy. And that’s for better and worse.

No-one should be that surprised by Nick Clegg’s decision to distance the Lib Dems from Michael Gove’s schools policies — specifically that every teacher should be qualified and that every school should teach the national curriculum. After all, what Nick is due to set out in a speech this week is the policy that was voted for overwhelmingly by the party’s conference in March this year.

Here’s what the adopted policy – Every Child Taught by an Excellent Teacher – says about teachers in all schools having qualifications:

All classroom teachers, including in academies and free schools and Further Education

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Nick Clegg pledges parental guarantee to tackle poor standards in free schools

Clegg WatfordThe Independent on Sunday today reports that Nick Clegg is to criticise Conservative policy on free schools. He will pledge a new parental guarantee in the 2015 Liberal Democrat election manifesto.

It makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.

What’s the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.

And what’s the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let’s have quality food in all our schools.

If the Lib Dems re-enter government, the guarantee will assure parents that their child will be taught by a qualified a teacher. The schools will have to follow the national curriculum and conform to national nutritional standards for school meals.

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Closed for business? The UK needs more foreign students

Heathrow Immigration QueuesConflating international students’ use of the health service with so-called ‘health tourism’ sends out the wrong message to prospective students.

The government’s new Immigration Bill, according to immigration minister Mark Harper will:

Stop migrants using public services to which they are not entitled, reduce the pull factors which encourage people to come to the UK and make it easier to remove people who should not be here.

The measures focus on enforcement and clamping down. They include a requirement for temporary migrants, such as overseas students, to make a contribution to the National Health Service to prevent so-called “health tourism”.

International students make up around half of all migrants coming to the UK. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, they contributed £13.1 billion to the national economy in 2011.

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Kirsty Williams writes… Welsh Lib Dems more than double Welsh Pupil Premium

nick clegg kirsty williams - 1The Welsh Liberal Democrats were delighted to announce yesterday that we are more than doubling the Welsh Pupil Premium.

Two years ago, in a similar situation, we worked with the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales would have our own Welsh Pupil Premium. This meant that each school would get £450 per child on free school meals. This was an achievement we were rightly very proud of. However, while Liberal Democrats in England continued to increase the Pupil Premium, the unambitious Welsh Labour Government refused to do the same in Wales.

We have now changed that. Thanks to the Welsh Liberal Democrats we have more than doubled the value of the Welsh Pupil Premium, increasing funding to £918 per pupil.

Posted in Op-eds and Wales | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Opinion: We need to address the need for a re-balance in education localism

If we, as Lib Dems, have learnt anything from the march from complete local authority control, through self-management of schools and on to the drive for academies and free schools, it is that localism in education should not just be about empowering head teachers and governing bodies but must also raise standards across the board.  If this means bringing back some of those vital local authority-run ancillary services that allow heads to concentrate on the quality of teaching, so be it. Dogmatic opposition based on historic myth or anecdotal evidence has no place in education policy.

As we have witnessed over the last three years, the relentless approach of the Secretary of State to a continual reform agenda – a few good, many not so good, and some downright awful from our local government Lib Dem perspective – has meant that problems such as the provision of sufficient school places and the needs of vulnerable pupils haven’t had a proper look in. Whilst it is okay to notice OFSTED looking at regional structures in order to undertake improvement, as well as inspection, is it enough without the input of the localised knowledge only a Council can supply? I think not.

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David Laws: Time to end overpriced school uniforms

School UniformsLiberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws has announced he is to revamp guidance on school uniforms to help schools cut costs for parents.

With family budgets squeezed, Laws believes schools should place more emphasis on value for money for parents when choosing new uniforms. He will urge schools to end the practice of using a single uniform supplier, which stops parents from shopping around to find the best deal.

The new guidance, to be issued by the Department for Education tomorrow, will ask governing bodies to:

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The Independent View: Time to bring industry into the classroom

 Too many young people leave education without the skills and understanding of industry that businesses need. The big increase in apprenticeships in recent years means that a lot more people are now experiencing vocational learning on the job.
But there is still a problem in further education colleges, where most vocational learners still get all or the majority their training. Currently only around 11% of teaching staff at these colleges also work in their chosen profession. In certain sectors such as STEM, where industry standards and practice move fast, knowledge can quickly become out of date. This leads to a gap

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A Level Results: are we too university focused?

Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, A level students find out their results today. Will their grades be enough to get them into the university course that they want? For those who don’t, it’s likely that they’ll feel that their whole lives have been blighted and their opportunities for career success blighted. This is because we have come to equate success with a university education when in fact there are many other routes to a happy, fulfilling, lucrative career. Do we put too much pressure on our children to go to university?

Christine Jardine, former Special Adviser to Nick Clegg and …

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LibLink | Maajid Nawaz – ‘Education. For me it’s personal.’

maajid-navazWe reported here 2 weeks ago that Maajid Nawaz has been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for the ultra-marginal three-way Hampstead and Kilburn seat. This week sees him write for the local Camden New Journal newspaper, focusing on education. Here’s an excerpt:

If we desire a society in which every child is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their economic background, the development of an education system capable of supporting this is crucial.

This is why I’m so proud that the Liberal Democrats in government have fought hard to

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Opinion: Performance related pay for teachers: does it drive up standards?

Michael Gove’s most recent big idea to improve the teaching profession takes the form of performance related pay. Like many of Gove’s big ideas it has incensed teachers. But it’s also a populist move. One poll estimated that 61% of voters backed the idea. But will it improve teaching standards?

The evidence for performance related pay leading to improving standards in education is inconclusive. Literature shows no causal relationship between performance related pay and standards and results vary enormously depending on the context. In India one study showed that “after controlling for student ability, parental background and the resources available …

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Opinion: New policy on school attendance is illiberal

I owe Labour an apology for labelling the push a few years ago to reduce Heads’ discretion on family holidays as ”Nanny State”: no consultation with parents, just an assumption that only the state & education system could be trusted with a child’s best interests. There was a parent rebellion at our local primary school.

Nanny has now been replaced by the Patriarchal State  in an approach that implies “As some pupils have been skiving, the whole school will be kept in.”

As of this September, approval of all family holidays during term time is banned other than in “exceptional” circumstances. …

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Stephen Lloyd MP writes…Break point for Religious Education

Watching Andy Murray storm to victory over Novak Djokovic on centre court, I couldn’t help drawing some unlikely parallels with one of my own passions – the plight of religious education.

Like Andy Murray, RE has suffered from outdated perceptions. In Murray’s case an off-the-cuff comment to a tabloid journalist in 2006 unfairly implanted the perception of a grumpy, vehemently anti-English Scotsman in the eyes of millions.

RE has suffered from a similar misrepresentation. Some people would like you to believe that the subject is about indoctrination and teaching young people to be religious. Often these views are simply outdated, stemming from …

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David Laws MP writes…Higher expectations for schools – with more money to meet them

All over the country, thousands of 11 year olds are preparing to make the big step up to secondary school.  Some will be excited and raring to go, while others will be anxious about the new challenge that lies ahead.  Every parent knows that this is a crucial time for a child.  To go from the safety of your primary school into a new and unknown world can be daunting for many children.

The experience is even more difficult if you start at an immediate disadvantage.  A child who has failed to grasp the basics of English and Maths in primary …

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Nick Clegg gives an extra £400 to disadvantaged kids – so why is this turning into a story about ranking pupils?

Nick Clegg in a London schoolYou have to feel for Nick Clegg. He’s doing the media rounds this morning with some really good news. Primary schools are going to get an extra £400 in Pupil Premium, bringing the total per child per year to £1300. Impressive, surely?

It makes sense that the money is directed so that if a child is struggling in primary school, they get the help that they need then. Early intervention has to be the name of the game. The last thing you would ever want is for …

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Opinion: Raise your hand on Malala Day

Just under a year ago, I wrote a piece about the shooting of a girl who dared to demand her right an education. Today, that girl will address the UN and meet Ban Ki Moon to discuss access to education worldwide. Today is Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday.

Education is a right that we often take for granted in the UK. But millions of children worldwide miss out on an education. Where parents cannot afford to send their children to school, cannot afford for their children not to work, or even when places are provided but they cannot provide the uniform or materials, those children will never have the opportunity to change their lives. They will live and die in poverty.

Girls are more likely to miss out on education than boys. When finances are tight, many families will choose to educate sons but not daughters; sons will go on to work, but if daughters are expected to raise a family and stay at home then educating them is seen as pointless. Often, raising children is something done at school age– in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 5 girls is married before the age of 18. Once they are married, they will not return to school as this video shows.

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Farron asks Gove to put mental health on the school curriculum

Last Friday a new charity, providing online counselling to teenagers with mental health issues, launched in London. Mindfull, run by the team behind BeatBullying, built the service after feedback young people themselves. We’re talking about a third of our young people either self-harming or contemplating suicide because they are feeling so bad. The case stories in the report give some idea of how that feels:

Jessica was 14 when she started to feel very down. She didn’t tell anyone about the way she was feeling until she was 15, and even though she started to have suicidal thoughts it took

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Report on internet pornography highlights need for education, not restriction

One of my biggest concerns in recent years has been the effect of access to easily available internet pornography on the next generation of young people. Every time I ask an expert in the field to reassure me and tell me that I’m panicking too much, they shake their head and tell me that my fears are spot on.

It just takes a couple of clicks to arrive at free videos which depict women in a subjugative role, as little more than receptacles. The language used about those women is demeaning and deeply misogynistic. The expectations of a generation of boys …

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“Is the coalition government doing enough to encourage social mobility?”

social-mobilityThat was the question I was asked to answer for a new magazine, The New Idealist (available online here). Here’s what I said…

Social mobility: it’s a phrase much-beloved by politicians from all three parties. Who, after all, can possibly disagree with the fine sentiments of Nick Clegg in his social mobility strategy paper, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers (April 2011)?

In Britain today, life chances are narrowed for too many by the circumstances of their birth: the home they’re born into, the neighbourhood they grow up in or the jobs their

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Opinion: Three flaws in the Government’s education reforms

One of the things that seems to characterise Tory ministers in this government is a remarkable attraction to putting ideology and an assumption that they know best ahead of little details like “facts” and “evidence based policy”.

A good example of this comes in the form of Michael Gove’s education reforms which have been characterised by a breathtaking disregard for decades of research into what works and an aversion to listening to anything or anyone who disagrees with the reforms.

Nevertheless, I’d like to highlight the following facts about education. It would be nice if he paid attention:

Starting maths early damages educational

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On Budget day: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition’s economic policy and ring-fencing of spending

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 650 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

George Osborne with Red Box, Budget 2012

Just 26% of Lib Dem members support Osborne’s ‘Plan A’

Thinking of the current state of the economy and the Coalition’s approach, which of the following statements is closest to your own view?

    20% – Cutting the deficit isn’t enough: alongside public spending cuts, the Coalition should be

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