Your Weekly Sector News 08/12/23

Join us for the latest edition of Your Weekly Sector News, bringing you all the latest insights in education. Read ahead to learn about the UK’s global ranking in education outcomes, the shortfall in teacher recruitment, and reforms to tackle persistent absence.  
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UK’s Pisa scores decline in line with global trends

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey compares the academic performance of pupils from high and middle-income countries to show school leaders which nations are leading the way in education. The tests are sat by 15-year-old students every three years, with the latest taking place in 2022. 

Results show that the UK’s average scores have fallen across the board. With an average score of 489, maths fell by 13 points since tests were last taken in 2018, its lowest level since records began in 2006. In reading, the UK received an average score of 494, ten points lower than 2018, on par with a record low in 2009. Meanwhile, the average score in science stood at 500, five points lower than 2018. Analysts explain that 20 points is broadly equivalent to one year of schooling, which illustrates the scale of decline. 

Despite these trends, the UK climbed the results table in maths and reading, ranking at 12th and 13th place respectively, as other developed countries experienced a greater downturn in educational outcomes. John Bangs, senior adviser at global teachers’ union federation Education International, identified the pandemic as a major factor, saying that ‘the most successful countries are those that had short lockdowns, while countries that did not work closely with teachers such as the UK tended to keep schools closed longer.’

However, Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that ‘educational trajectories were negative well before the pandemic hit,’ indicating long-term, structural issues within the education system. 

For the first time, pupils were asked about their wellbeing during the survey. The results show that the UK has the second lowest average life satisfaction, with one quarter of 15-year-olds reporting they are not satisfied with their lives. The level of exposure to bullying was also higher than average in the UK, with 27% of pupils experiencing bullying at least a few times a month compared to an average of 23% across OECD countries. Similarly, 10.5% of UK pupils said they experienced food insecurity, whilst the average figure was 8%. Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), Natalie Perera, comments that the challenges for young people span wider than education, and emphasises the need for ‘improved access to public health services, safe and secure housing, and [living] without the threat of living in poverty.’

Our Creative Psychotherapy in Education team can support pupils with a range of mental health and behavioural challenges. We pride ourselves on our fast response times and in most cases, our psychotherapists visit schools within the first week of contact.

Get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Secondary teacher training targets missed by half

Data shows that the government has missed its target for secondary teacher recruitment by 50% this year, with only 13,102 trainees recruited onto teacher training courses. Targets were missed for the majority of subjects, except for Classics, history and PE, where targets were exceeded. One of the worst affected subjects was Physics, in which the government met only 17% of the target. However, this was a minor improvement from the previous year, rising by 1%. Meanwhile, many other subjects missed their target by an even wider margin. For example, only 63% of maths teachers were recruited this year, compared to 88% in 2022/23. This comes after the Prime Minister’s announcement for all school children to be taught maths until the age of 18. 

Recruitment figures were higher for primary teachers, with 96% of the target achieved. However, Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), reflects that the effects of this shortfall can still be felt in schools across the country ‘with school leaders unable to recruit teachers in many areas [and] existing staff left overworked.’

Jack Worth, School Workforce Lead at the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) says that the government should take action to improve the attractiveness of teaching as a profession by ‘enhancing bursaries and other financial incentives, reducing workload and improving the competitiveness of teachers’ pay.’ The Department for Education (DfE) reaffirms its commitment to improve recruitment incentives with £30,000 tax-free bonuses for early career teachers over five years. 

Government publishes plans to tackle persistent absence

The Department for Education (DfE) has published its response to the Education Select Committee’s report on persistent absence, which made a series of recommendations on how the government can improve school attendance. This includes the recommendation to make attendance guidance statutory from September 2024. The government has agreed, but will make updates to include ‘new sections on mental health and targeting support meetings, and updated sections on SEND and LA services.’

The government also welcomes the recommendation for a targeted public information campaign on school attendance. It confirms that multiple communication channels, including radio, social media and local influencers, will be used to disseminate ‘positive messages on attendance and offer clear guidance on mild illness/anxiety.’ Furthermore, the DfE supports the committee’s proposals to mandate the daily collection of attendance data for publication on the pupil attendance dashboard. This is currently being piloted in 80% of schools, however the government pledges to mandate participation for all maintained schools ‘no sooner than September 2024.’ The DfE will also investigate how local authorities can collect and report on pupil attendance in breakfast and holiday clubs. 

Another recommendation included the introduction of a mental health absence code. However, the DfE says it would be difficult for teachers to determine whether absence was due to a mental health reason at the point of taking the register. Therefore, they warn ‘that creating an additional code is unhelpful in practice and could place a burden on schools.’ 

Education Committee Chair, Robin Walker MP, says he welcomes the positive reforms the government has laid out in its response. However, he adds that ‘outstanding questions remain about whether the education and health systems are sufficiently resourced to meet the rising tide of demand for SEND and mental health services.’

If your school is struggling with persistent absence and poor attendance, our Attendance Audit can help you to identify the specific challenges within your school and put action plans in place to improve pupil attendance.

Reach out to our team to learn more.

One Education is passionate about supporting continued learning and professional growth, empowering school staff with the skills, knowledge and confidence to achieve the very best outcomes for your pupils. 

With our highly qualified and experienced team, we can support you at every level of your school, from Teaching & Learning to Education Welfare & Safeguarding.

Please get in touch to discuss your requirements. 

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