Tag Archives: education

Education prospects worsen for UK children in poverty

As most children go back to school this week, fears that disadvantaged children will have fallen behind in their schoolwork in the months of COVID lockdown seem confirmed by interviews conducted with more than 3000 teachers and heads at about 2000 schools in England and Wales by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Their study, reported yesterday, found that, while the average learning lost was reckoned to be about three months for all pupils, teachers expect that more than half of pupils in schools in the most deprived areas have lost four months or more.

But the educational outlook was sadly worsening anyway for around four million children who now, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are living in poverty in the UK (jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2019-20). A new report has found worsening educational inequality already, stating that “there is disturbing new evidence that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has stopped closing for the first time in five years.” This report, from the Education Policy Institute (epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/education-in-england-annual-report-2020), finds that disadvantaged pupils in England are 18.1 months of learning in English and Maths behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs. This is the same gap as five years ago, and the gap at primary school increased for the first time since 2007.

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Back to school?

Next week, we go back to school in England. My teenagers will return and I will go back to work as a science technician.

Am I happy and confident that this will all work out? No, not really. Will we all be going to school? Yes.

The government says we’ll be safe. They claim that the virus won’t be a problem. They also tell us we don’t need to wear masks, that children won’t need to stay 2m apart. The children will be in “bubbles”. They gloss over the fact that some of these bubbles will include whole year groups, 100s of people. Our household combines 3 schools. I work in one school, my teenagers go to two further schools. We are not the only family with feet in more than one school.

The Guardian tells me that the chief medical officers say they are “confident the evidence showed an exceptionally small risk of children of primary or secondary school age dying from Covid-19.”

They do not say children cannot get ill or suffer long-term side effects. They don’t mention staff. Are sixth formers more like 5 year olds than young adults when it comes to this virus?

This Prime Minister thinks that repeating something frequently, will make it true. He does not provide evidence that it is safe, nor will he issue measures to ensure safety. He will not convince everyone. It has been the same with so much during this government’s tenure. Repeating the mantra that our Test & Trace system is “world beating” has not made it so.

On balance, I will be sending my teenagers back. They want to go. They need the social interaction. They need to be in their classrooms with a teacher. On balance, the risk to their education is probably greater than the risks to them from coronavirus.

But not everyone will return. Some of our young people will be unable to return due to health issues (their own or in their immediate family). Other families will pivot in favour of keeping their youngsters away for all sorts of other reasons. Some will simply be afraid.

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Coronavirus crisis test for education services

After becoming York’s Executive Member for Children’s Services in 2019, I immediately started on the task of putting together an improvement plan to deliver the best possible services for the future generations in York. But, eight months into the role, we found ourselves unexpectedly having to deal with a national emergency which would see both Children’s Services and Education facing an unprecedented crisis. Our administration’s response in York can be best characterised as converting what had seemed ‘impossible’ into ‘possible’.  Yet the contradictions, confusion and periods of silence from our Government, have turned the challenge of the last few months into something which will shape our services for years to come. 

Since the introduction of ‘lockdown’ in late March, York’s teachers and school staff have gone above and beyond to help young people, parents and carers through this incredibly difficult time.  Whilst our city’s 63 maintained schools, academies and special schools have been taking care of our most vulnerable students and the children of our amazing key workers, the Government has stoked-up the levels of confusion and distress through ever-changing guidance on safety regulations, timescales for re-opening as well as the support available for the most disadvantaged students. 

Like elsewhere in the country, teachers here in York have been doing fantastic work in incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances. I am proud of the support that they have given pupils throughout lockdown by providing stimulating online learning materials across all year groups.  Government was quick to note the importance of providing access to remote learning through initiatives like free laptops and a temporary data charge exemption on sites which provide vital education for children, yet it was months into lockdown before the most disadvantaged children would receive any such help. York’s first delivery of laptops, allocated under arbitrarily strict Government guidance, arrived at the end of June.  And we have yet to receive a response to a letter sent to the School’s Minister warning of the urgency of the provision of this help. 

Similarly, Children’s Social Services, caring for the most vulnerable children in the city, had to adapt quickly to working more remotely.  Because fewer face-to-face meetings could take place due to health guidance, our staff put incredible effort into finding ways to contact all children and families safely. With a growing increase in the demand for such services as lockdown progressed, staff have gone above and beyond in making sure no child in need is left behind at this challenging time. 

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Kirsty Williams, the one competent education secretary in the UK

It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks for exam students. Highers and A level results play a huge role in determining the course of your life. If you don’t get the grades you need to fulfil your aspirations, you have to rethink your whole life. And you will carry those grades around for your whole life.

The question of whether we should have a system that puts so much stress on our young people is up for debate, but that’s for another day.

We know, though, that there are clear differences between the nations of the UK. In Scotland and England, the whole thing has been a disaster. However, in Wales, our Kirsty Williams has presided over a system that she argues has credibility because it guarantees that AS level results from last year will be the minimum grade for this year. That is a system that was scrapped by one Michael Gove in England.

Watch her statement about the way the results have been calculated:

Watch this interview she gave ahead of the announcement of the grades:

Listen to Kirsty talk to Andrew Castle on LBC here. 

Because we have maintained a system whereby AS-levels forms a significant proportion of a final A-level grade, we were able to us that in the moderation process and able to put in a safety net for students so they could not drop below their previous AS Level grade.

“The ability to do that has been very helpful, because those were exams which were set, taken in the same conditions and were externally assessed.

“That can give students, universities and employers real confidence in them”.

She also cast doubt on the validity of giving grades based on mock exams,

“Some schools don’t do mock examinations,” Ms Williams explained.

“Some use mock examinations as a way to boost confidence and deliver them in a way that perhaps they are there to encourage people.

“Other schools use them as a tool of encouragement in the other way, they will mark them really hard so that people don’t get complacent.

“Each school has a different approach which we believe is right for them.”

The Welsh Lib Dems had some clear messaging about results:

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Exam Results and Gradings

Students and teachers are often disappointed with some or all of their grades, and this will always be so. Don’t let us be consoled by this and dismiss the anxiety over grades as a temporary, COVID driven problem requiring only an immediate, pragmatic solution.

I was for several years in the early 2000s, a senior A level examiner. I set papers, wrote mark schemes and participated in grade reviews before grades were published.

I participated in meetings that manipulated mark schemes after students had completed papers but before they were marked – also in the meetings which manipulated grade boundaries after marking. These manipulations had four aims:

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Lib Dems: The party of wellbeing?

Lib Dem leadership elections often bring up the same criticisms of the party:

  1. People don’t know what we stand for.
  2. We aren’t radical enough.
  3. We need to advance a “core voter” strategy based on values, not just on being “hard working local people”.

I agree with all of these criticisms, but get weary when they are repeated ad infinitum without solutions. Both Davey and Moran talk about the importance of building a distinctive liberal message without saying what this distinctive liberal message should be. What I’m seeing from both candidates is a list of reasonable policy ideas which aren’t meaningfully linked (except by the vague claim that they are “liberal” or “evidenced-based”).

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Book review: Diane Reay’s “Miseducation – Inequality, Education and the Working Classes”

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I had been seeing a friend and was on my way out when she picked up a book and said – you must read this. I found it a shocking revelation.

Diane Reay published Miseducation Inequality, and the working classes in 2017. The eldest of eight children, her father a miner, she is now an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and visitor professor at the London School of Economics.

Diane writes that her book is intended to provide an understanding of the working class experience of education together with her sadness and need to make sense of the resulting damage. There is fascinating research, the facts with full details. The book finally comes to a survey by Andy Green on the rise of education systems in England, France and the US, and singles out England as “the most blatant example of the use of schooling by a dominant class to secure control over subordinate group”.

There was that idea from the beginning. The state Education Act of 1870 was due and in 1867 Robert Lowe wrote:

If the lower classes must now be educated they must be educated that they may appreciate and defer to a higher civilisation when they meet it.

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11 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems lead cross party push for more diverse curriculum
  • Yet more dishonesty from the Govt on test and trace system

Lib Dems lead cross party push for more diverse curriculum

The Liberal Democrats have secured cross party support for a bid to review the national curriculum in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests to combat “institutional racism in the UK”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary coordinated by Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran, MPs from across the political spectrum call for the inclusion of “a more diverse range of historical perspectives in our curriculum”. The cross-party group request …

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9 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems secure cross-party call for Govt to take up Hong Kong Bill
  • Govt must prevent disadvantaged pupils falling behind due to COVID-19
  • Govt must help businesses and people excluded from support schemes
  • Govt wrong to deny Brexit extension

Lib Dems secure cross-party call for Govt to take up Hong Kong Bill

The Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support demanding the Prime Minister take up legislation to go further in UK support for Hong Kong.

The cross-party groups of MPs, led by Alistair Carmichael MP, has secured the support of former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in calling for a UK response to Beijing’s recent attempts to force a new national security law on Hong Kong.

Amidst reports of Hong Kong police firing tear gas and water cannons at several hundred demonstrators, the Government announced last week new measures to support visa rights and a path to citizenship for current British Nationals (Overseas) holders in Hong Kong.

However, the cross-party group of over 50 MPs want the Government to go further and take up Alistair Carmichael’s Hong Kong Bill for parliamentary consideration, which would also ensure greater oversight over each party’s adherence to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

MPs from all parties and all political persuasions are backing Hong Kong with one voice today. We are calling on the Government to take up the Hong Kong Bill on a cross-party basis for debate and amendment. This is a critical moment.

That the Government has started to take action to support BNO status holders is welcome. We can and must go further, however. Measures including targeted sanctions and a reopening of the BNO passport offer deserve a full hearing.

Beijing is on the verge of wiping out the basic freedoms of Hongkongers with its draconian law. The Government must stand with us and take up legislative action to support the people of Hong Kong.

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Kirsty Williams on re-opening schools in Wales

It was good to see Welsh Education minister, Kirsty Williams, fronting a press conference yesterday on the re-opening of schools in Wales.

In contrast to Boris Johnson’s plans for England, which have generated widespread concern, Wales is taking a more cautious and devolved approach. All schools there will re-open on 29th June, staggering attendance to ensure that only a third of pupils will be on site at any one time. Schools and councils will decide how that is to be implemented locally, phasing in the scheme to suit local conditions.

Term dates will be adjusted, with a week’s extension to the summer term and a two week half term break in October.

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Lib Dems call for young refugees to have equal access to education

Senior Lib Dems have backed a call from newly elected Lib Dem Councillor Anton Georgiou for young refugees to be given computer equipment and support to enable them to access education during the pandemic.

Lib Dems at all levels, from MPs to Councillors, to London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita and London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, LDCRE Chair Roderick Lynch and Cllr Rabina Khan supported the initiative and signed Anton’s letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Upon investigating Cllr Georgiou found that while some vulnerable school pupils will be receiving free computer equipment to assist them with home learning, young refugee children and students learning English have so far been excluded from this much needed support.

Organisations like Young Roots, Refugee Support Network are concerned that these vulnerable young people will fall even further behind and not be able to keep up with their classmates.

In urging the Government to expand the support required, Anton highlights the excellent work being carried out by organisations like SocialBox.Biz, who are leading the way with initiatives like ‘Laptops for the Homeless and Vulnerable’.

Anton said:

Good education is a crucial stepping stone to allow young people to achieve their full potential. In the present crisis we must do everything possible to support young and vulnerable people to get access to the necessary equipment to enable them to continue with their education and contribute to our community.

Everyone deserves access to the tools to enable them to achieve their potential.

The text of the letter in full is below:

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16-17 May 2020: the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb
  • Lib Dems call for permanent remote voting option for MPs
  • Govt must be transparent if they want public support for reopening schools
  • Davey: Govt approach to tracing ‘totally inadequate’
  • Lib Dems: Govt putting ideology above people’s lives in refusing to extend Brexit talks
  • Govt must not pursue isolationist approach to vaccine

Lib Dems: Covid-19 mental health implications a ticking time bomb

Responding to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ findings that psychiatrists fear a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness after the pandemic, Liberal …

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Layla: We need reassurance and clarity before schools can re-open

Lib Dem Education spokesperson Layla Moran was on LBC this morning talking about getting children back to school.

Listen here:

Earlier on Sky News, she reiterated the importance of transparency in the Government’s communications:

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Kirsty Williams outshines Williamson with her guidance on Wales school re-opening.

Education spokesperson Layla Moran has often expressed her frustration with the Government for the mess it is making over re-opening schools.

If only there was a sensible Lib Dem Education Secretary.

But wait. There is. In Wales.

Our Kirsty Williams has been giving Gavin Williamson a masterclass in how to set out a comprehensive, detailed plan which keeps people on side and gives them enough time to do what is necessary. It’s the perfect example of competence, clarity and calm.

She said:

As Education Minister, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

“Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

“This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

“I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase.

“When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

In drawing up her decision framework, she is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders including unions, teachers and education providers.

Kirsty is being open and transparent about her approach and sets out the basis on which she will make her decisions in the Decision Framework document. 

In its foreword she writes:

This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing the operations of schools or other providers.

For example, in allowing time to plan ahead, there are a series of connected decisions. We will work towards the next end-of-cycle review, but I can also guarantee that the ‘next phase’ won’t start midweek; there will be preparation and training time for teachers, and we will work with local authorities to ensure the necessary cleaning and hygiene operations and products are in place.

I can guarantee that an increase in operations will be a phased approach. I do not expect that schools or other education settings across Wales will be open for all learners, from all years, all week, anytime soon.

I am sharing this working document, and framework for decisions, to show the extent of the issues related to the next phase. I want it to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback from the education family, including parents and carers, children and young people.

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Working with teachers

Following the COVID-19 crisis, as Liberal Democrats, we have a clear call to action we cannot squander – to ensure that all those that have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic have not done so in vain.  Our action must be to support education, experts and other to express their opinions, to engage in intellectual tussle, and to be trusted to develop systems based on values rather than league tables.

Michael Gove’s Education White Paper in 2010 perhaps sent us a glimmer of a world that was going to go wrong.  Even its title was set to diminish a key component of education.  It was called ‘The Importance of Teaching’.  It was not called ‘The Importance of Teachers’.

Slowly the sector became de-professionalised and inspection regimes became increasingly politicised.  This was all a foreshadow of what was to come across many aspects of government.  Indeed, Richard Horton, the Editor of the Lancet (for 25 years) has been scathing about systematic failures in the government approach to science (at the end of January the Lancet published 5 research papers from the world regarding the potential effects of COVID-19, all of which appear to have been ignored by government).

Yet a future generation of children the world over are inspired by the work they are seeing people do, and their resilience is equally inspiring to all of us currently seeing them cope with being ‘locked down’.  They are being inspired to be experts (doctors, teachers, nurses, those working in logistics and retail).  Inspired to use technology to learn.  Inspired to play.

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We must listen to the teachers’ unions

We should all be watching carefully the dispute that is bubbling at the moment between the teaching unions and the government. It could very easily set a precedent for how the rest of us are treated when it comes to workplace protections against COVID-19.

When Boris Johnson addressed the nation last Sunday, informing us of the new rules in a way that he alone could have imagined was significantly clearer than the hue of mud, the onus was delicately and deliberately placed on employees rather than employers:

Work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t.

 

Think how different this is to what he ought to have said: “If your employees can’t work from home, employers must adapt their working environments to the new Covid-secure standards.”

Yet instead of this, we were given the woolly assurance that, “we have been working to establish new guidance for employers”.

And here is where we come to teachers. The academisation of the education sector means that schools are now run for profit. A Local Education Authority can set minimum standards across their region and co-ordinate efforts to ensure that schools are safe. An academy chain, motivated by little other than exam results and quantifiable progress, can much more easily set their own standards.

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Poverty and Education: do schools need more support?

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On 24th March 2020, the Education Endowment Foundation said the attainment gap for children from the poorest homes will widen while they are not in school. So here is a short version of the speech I was to make at a fringe conference meeting.

It has long been known that early years care and education is extremely important for people’s education for life. So why is spending per pupil on this down at the bottom?  The expansion of free childcare with inadequate funding for staff, reduces the quality of provision. Our Spring 2018 conference paper identified that.

This January an Education Policy Institute (EPI) report “Early Years Workforce Development” agreed that this is affecting the disadvantaged. There are staff in early years work with great knowledge and skill, but Early Education, an organisation representing them, is very critical of government, saying that the proposal to introduce baseline testing of children when they enter the Reception Class is fundamentally flawed. The Education Endowment Foundation expressed doubts that new government Early Learning Goals will better prepare children for schooling.

It is Lib-Dem policy to triple the pupil premium for that age group and radically change the testing regime.

The gap in progress from disadvantaged backgrounds widens with age. The EPI annual report in July 2019 says that young people aged 16 to 19 from poor homes are disproportionately on lower level, lower quality courses. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) in April last year (Family Matters and NEETS) says these young people are 50% more likely to be not in Education, Employment or Training. In September last, we passed a motion stating that a young person’s premium at 16+ be introduced.

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Death In The Afternoon

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Just before I was born my parents made the decision to move from their home town of Reading to an isolated South Oxfordshire village which is where I grew up.

My widowed grandmother also joined us which was great as I was very fond of her. I attended the local primary school which on the whole I enjoyed, reading was a passion.

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27 January 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: UK access to crime databases at risk post Brexit
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats welcome landmark for Welsh education
  • Liberal Democrats challenge Minister on Met facial recognition surveillance

Liberal Democrats: UK access to crime databases at risk post Brexit

Following reports that the exchange of key security information is at risk post Brexit, due to concerns over Britain’s record in protecting personal information, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Our police rely heavily on co-operation with our EU partners to identify criminals and bring them to justice. It’s incredibly alarming that these government scandals threaten to undermine that co-operation, making us all less

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Paddy & President Jed Bartlet can’t both be wrong – Education should be our flagship

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Pretty much everyone has a view on why we had a bad election and, more importantly, what we should do next. I’m a member of Barnsley local party and here are my two cents…

Johnson’s Tories look like they have weathered the storm and are in for a few stable years as a version of Trumps Republicans, appealing to the English rustbelt and the odd white supremacist.

They may be untouchable for a while.

We have just experienced our third bad (so very bad) election in a row.

However Labour, by its standards, has had a shocker. They have not won an election now in 14 years.

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Santa Rennie delivers festive lump of coal to SNP

It wouldn’t be an election without Willie Rennie doing something eye-catching.

And today, he took part in a Santa dash in Glasgow.

 

He placed the SNP firmly on the Naughty List for the decline in public services since they have been in government and suggested that they’d be getting a lump of coal on Christmas morning.

The only reason that the SNP want to talk about Brexit is because their domestic agenda is truly abysmal.

Hundreds of children are waiting far too long for mental health treatment, the third Police Authority chair in three years has resigned and we are falling down the international education rankings.

This Christmas the SNP deserve a lump of coal for the way they’ve mishandled these services. Our teachers, nurses and police officers are working hard day in day out but they don’t get the support they deserve from an SNP government which has independence on the brain.

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29 November 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • Lib Dems: Johnson’s Brexit plans would let thousands of criminals off the hook
  • Liberal Democrats will invest £1 billion a year to restore community policing
  • Lib Dems: Ofsted stats reveal Tory failure on school standards

Lib Dems: Johnson’s Brexit plans would let thousands of criminals off the hook

  • Estimated 6,000 criminals could evade justice if Johnson’s Brexit goes ahead
  • UK police to be locked out of EU crime database used 1.6 million times a day
  • Brexit would undermine UK’s ability to tackle terrorism and organised crime

The Liberal Democrats have warned Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans risk enabling thousands of criminals to escape justice, after analysis revealed the …

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Boost free childcare to build a brighter future

The Liberal Democrats will today (09/11/19) announce bold plans to introduce free childcare from 9 months, transforming the lives of parents and children across the UK.

Today’s high cost of childcare means that too many parents are unable to return to work without risking real financial hardship. With the average cost of 25 hours nursery care for a child under two running to more than £6500 per year, many parents are effectively excluded from work due to the burden of childcare costs.

A Liberal Democrat government will build a fairer economy by providing free, high-quality childcare for every child aged two to …

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The speeches that got away: Investing in further education and learning throughout life 

The Education motion at conference stated  “The UK faces a serious skills deficit”. 

That is an understatement. Take for example what happens when young people fail GCSE Maths and English and move on to sixth form or college. 

When I taught at a general FE College, I remember a group of 17year old girls, who aspired to be nurses. I had to spend time, for example, teaching them quadratic equations when they really needed much more time improving their understanding and application of decimals, percentages, and ratio relevant to their career. 

Force-feeding young people to resit GCSE Maths and English which they have just failed and hated is bad education. Statistically, results show it does not work. On average 25% pass; in Maths this year only 20% passed and can we claim that even these have sufficiently improved, with a pass mark around 20 out of 100, so was it relevant to their career? 

This approach can even be dangerous; on more than one occasion in my lifetime a baby has died because the decimal point in a drug prescription was in the wrong place. 

Our party motion makes clear that young people need to develop their Maths and English in a free course that is suited to their needs.  Functional skills qualifications have this year been improved, so there is no excuse. Colleges at the moment are constrained by strict funding rules. We will give colleges the freedom and resources to judge the best way to improve basic skills for everyone at age 16+. 

In this country skills and ‘vocational’ learning have  not been given the attention they need for decades. Note these points. 

First, the department for Education Skills Index, shows since 2012 the contribution of skills to the nation’s productivity declined by 27%. Second, we have now the lowest on record of adults pursuing any form of education. Third, the new T-level courses due to start in September 2020 look like being under-resourced.  Fourth, the new apprenticeships while welcome are failing at the lower levels; companies who pay the levy have reduced their other training provision. 

So, with all these recent failures to deal with the skills deficit, what does Boris Johnson do ?  He removes the post of Skills Minister. 

This follows a period when Michael Gove distorted the whole Education curriculum by his obsession with academic learning and theoretical testing. Under the veneer of improved exam results, many feel the harmful consequences of that and those at the lower end are not catching up.

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Teachers’ voting intention switching to Lib Dems

Check out this link to a recent survey of teachers. When asked how they would vote if a general election were held now, 30% of those surveyed said Lib Dem!

This is remarkable, as 60% in a previous survey said they voted Labour in the 2017 election. The move towards Lib Dems shows we are getting our education policy right – calling for increased funding and reversing school cuts; increased teachers’ pay and allowing teachers to teach rather than being put under unnecessary pressure from inspections; and supporting SEND pupils with increased provision.

You can read more of the Liberal Democrats plan for education here, Demand Better for our Schools.

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It is important to listen to expert opinion on primary SATs and school league tables

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I was excited when Layla Moran first spoke about setting the direction for our party’s education policy. Layla spoke about involving experts more in setting policy, about working with the Education Endowment Foundation and other bodies who do hard-hitting research, and about putting evidence above ideology.

The speech given to the NEU earlier this month was sadly not in keeping with this vision. While her comments on the need to lift teacher pay and school funding were spot on, the prescription for ending the ‘culture of accountability’ were not in keeping with expert opinion.

First, it’s worth pointing out that most do agree that the English school system has become overly stressful for school staff. The pressure head teachers are now under to deliver results is immense, with one bad Ofsted inspection or year of academic results capable of causing serious harm to careers. Inevitably this is filtering down to classroom teachers. Between this and the pay freeze endured over much of the last decade, it’s no surprise that retention in the profession is falling. That said, there are serious questions to be asked about two of the solutions to this problem which Layla is advocating.

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11 April 2019 – the overnight press releases

Lib Dems demand more mental health support for World Parkinson’s Day

Today, for World Parkinson’s Day, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Judith Jolly has called on increased mental health support for those suffering with the disease.

Speaking on World Parkinson’s Day, Baroness Jolly said:

People with Parkinson’s have an increased likelihood of depression and anxiety due to the condition, and it is unacceptable to think that harassment and discrimination could be making this worse.

With mental health issues common in people with Parkinson’s, it is vital people have access to mental health support when they need it.

The Tories must do more to improve

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9 April 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Cable: Brexiters losing argument and votes
  • Schools resorting to desperate tactics to tackle funding emergency
  • Cable: IMF report should put to bed Brexit fantasies
  • Govt must bring together all MPs to agree to a People’s Vote

Cable: Brexiters losing argument and votes

Following the votes in the House of Commons tonight, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Parliament has now taken back control and the UK is on course for an extension to Article 50 and European Parliament elections.

Brexiters are losing the argument and losing votes in the Commons by healthy margins.

The Prime Minister must now show leadership by offering a People’s

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Kirsty Williams extends help to disadvantaged children in school

Welsh Lib Dem education secretary Kirsty Williams has announced an increase in funding for disadvantaged children in school.

The announcement will provide support to an additional 14,000 learners.

Introduced in 2018, PDG-Access helps families cover the costs of school uniform, sports kits, as well as equipment for activities outside of the school. To receive the support, learners must be eligible for free school meals.

Currently, PDG-Access is worth £125 per eligible pupil entering reception class in primary school or Year 7. Today’s announcement means the scheme will be extended to include Year 3 and Year 10, and provide funding for looked after children (LAC) in every compulsory school year. Eligible families of Year 7 pupils will receive £200, instead of the current £125; relieving some of the increased costs associated with starting secondary school.

Extending the PDG was a key part of the Progressive Agreement between the First Minister and Kirsty Williams.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) is a key Welsh Liberal Democrat policy that supports our most disadvantaged pupils. I am delighted we have been able to extend the policy further to support families with the cost of uniforms and school equipment.

This, alongside Kirsty Williams’ pledge to introduce statutory guidance to reduce the cost of schools uniforms, will go a long way in supporting families.

Kirsty  said:

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5 April 2019 – today’s press releases

It’s been a pleasant evening in our small, but perfectly formed, village. There’s been beer, some splendid homemade sausage rolls, and a quiz (our team won!). Sadly, the real world has a nasty way of reasserting itself…

  • Brake: Yet another desperate move from a failing PM
  • Pupil Decelopment Grant Access extended to support more families
  • Breakdown of talks with Corbyn signals closing time for May’s Deal

Brake: Yet another desperate move from a failing PM

Responding to the news that the PM has written to the EU calling for a short extension of Article 50, already rejected by the EU, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom …

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