The Lionesses’ mission to level the playing field for girls
After winning the Women’s Euro 2022, the Lionesses have written an open letter to the Conservative leadership candidates, asking them to commit to allowing all girls to play football in schools. In the letter, players explain that they were ‘often stopped from playing’ football in school and had to find opportunities elsewhere. This reflects the current data collected by England Football, which shows that only sixty-three percent of schools in England offer equal football coaching to both boys and girls. In secondary schools, this figure drops to just forty-four percent.
To improve footballing opportunities for the current generation of school girls, the Lionesses ask the future Prime Minister to invest in female PE teachers and ensure all girls have access to at least two hours of PE each week.
In support of the Lionesses, shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, has written to James Cleverly, asking him to update the department’s ‘outdated commitment that pupils will have access to a “comparable sporting activity.” This limits the options of boys and girls and does nothing to break down traditional access barriers.’
In response, the Department for Education (DfE) says that ‘the National Curriculum for PE in schools does not differentiate in relation to sex […] it is for schools to decide which sports and physical activities they offer their pupils.’ That decision may be influenced by the number of spaces and equipment available, as well as pupils’ interests, the DfE explains. Through initiatives such as the Your Time and the School Sport and Activity Action Plan, the government argues it is ahead of the curve when it comes to supporting girls in sports.
Shedding light on the teacher recruitment crisis
Latest data from the Department for Education (DfE) sheds light on the teacher recruitment crisis, as the state-school sector misses out on thousands of potential new teachers. In September 2020, 35,371 students began Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses, an increase of more than six-thousand compared to the previous year. However, of those trainees, just 30,865 achieved Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and only 22,380 were known to be teaching in state schools within sixteen months of their graduation, creating a shortfall of thirteen thousand.
Figures show that eight percent of trainees have yet to complete their course, likely as a result of the pandemic. The DfE explains that ‘due to the disruption to training caused by Covid-19 […] trainees were offered course extensions into the following academic year.’
Furthermore, some leaders believe that more individuals signed up to ITT due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, eventually moving on once the labour market improved. Professor Geraint Jones, executive director and associate pro-vice-chancellor of the National Institute of Teaching & Education, explains ‘the figures include more people who chose to give teaching a go – whereas they perhaps would not have in “normal” times – but discovered it to be more challenging than they realised.’
However, the teacher recruitment crisis continues, as applicants to ITT fall below pre-pandemic levels. By June this year, the number of students placed on teacher training courses had fallen by six percent for primary education, and eighteen percent for secondary and further education, in comparison to 2019. Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) shows that ‘the attractiveness of teacher pay matters for teacher recruitment,’ however the latest economic forecasts suggest that the wider labour market is stronger than previously thought, creating more challenges for teacher supply.
Teachers express concern as results day approaches
This year, as exams returned for the first time since 2019, the government put a series of measures in place to mitigate the impact of learning loss during Covid. These included providing pupils with advanced information on exam topics, as well as formulae and equation sheets. However, a recent survey shows that almost half of teachers believe these measures did not fairly address the disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic.
Published by the Sutton Trust, the research also shows that a third of teachers believe the grade boundaries were too strict, sitting midway between 2019 and 2021. With results day approaching, a huge majority of teachers, at seventy-two percent, expect that the attainment gap will widen at their school.
Similarly, around two-thirds of students reported feeling worried about their grades and getting a place at their first choice university. Pupils from working class backgrounds were more likely to be concerned than their peers; correlating with data that showed deprived schools were hit harder by Covid, suffering higher rates of absence; covering less content; and less likely to practice mock exams under exam conditions.
The Sutton Trust makes several recommendations based on their findings. First, they suggest that ‘applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have narrowly missed their offer grades should be given additional consideration in admissions and hiring decisions.’ In addition, they say the government should produce ‘a renewed catch-up plan’ with an adequate scale of funding for future years. To find out more about recommendations from the trust, read the full report here.
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