Pressure by degrees on new staff

14th December 2007 at 00:00
They must study to improve their status as well as work in the classroom.Teachers are all too aware of the pressure on pupils to pass exams. But it is not only children now expected to gain qualifications.

All new teachers will have to study for a masters degree in education during their first years in the classroom.

The move to raise the status of teachers is part of the wide-ranging Children's Plan - a 10-year strategy setting out ministers' vision for education and children's services.

Transforming teaching into a masters level profession follows the success of Finland, where all teachers have to have the qualification before starting their careers.

A recent report by McKinsey, the global consultancy firm, found the secret to successful education systems was holding teachers in high regard and paying them well.

Earlier in the year Unicef ranked the UK bottom out of 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children after looking at indicators including poverty, health and family relationships. The Government dismissed many findings and claimed its policies had made improvements to child welfare.

But the Children's Plan goes a long way to address many of Unicef's concerns. At its core is a closer integration of education and children's services, building on the Government's existing Every Child Matters strategy which aimed to do the same thing.

Ministers hope it will raise achievement, promote healthier and safer lifestyles and more closely involve parents in their children's education. Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said: "Our aim is to make this country the best place in the world for our children and young people to grow up."

The 170-page Children's Plan manifesto is crammed with ambitions, targets and reviews that the Government has ordered. More than a third of the pound;1 billion of measures it mentions will go to improving playgrounds and youth centres. For teachers, two of the most important points are the confirmation of an expected review of the primary curriculum and the possible end to Sats tests in reading, writing and maths by 2009.

The primary review will aim to streamline the curriculum to create more time for maths, English and a foreign language. And other subjects, such as history and geography, might be combined into a single humanities subject.

Annual tests for 11 and 14-year-olds could be finished within two years if pilot projects testing children when they are ready, rather than all at the same time, prove successful (see page 20).

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, welcomed the proposals, but said it was league tables rather than exams that put pupils and teachers under pressure. "Regrettably there are no proposals in the Children's Plan to remove them," she said. "League tables encourage competition, place schools under unacceptable pressure, distort and narrow the curriculum and stifle creativity in the classroom."

The masters qualification for new teachers is designed to develop expertise in education, rather than subject specialism. It was warmly received by the NUT. General secretary Steve Sinnott described it as "an idea whose time has come".

Many newspapers picked up on the warning that more would be done to sack teachers who fail to reach high enough standards. "Bad teachers face life ban" announced the Daily Mail. But The TES has discovered that the plan's assertion that the General Teaching Council will be given extra powers to revoke qualified teacher status was a mistake. Instead, the existing process of referring competence cases to the GTC will be strengthened.

Other key points include:

- Summer-born children to be given more flexible entry dates to school. This could include younger children having the option to start school a year later.

- A review of sex education to ensure consistent advice is given. Jim Knight, the schools minister, admitted that some sex education is currently "pretty atrocious".

- More help for pupils with special educational needs. In 2009 there will be a review of personalised learning for disabled pupils.

- Improved opportunities for trainees on the graduate teacher programme, with a minimum of 60 days training guaranteed.

- Free early education to 20,000 two-year-olds in deprived areas.

- pound;225 million over the next three years to build or upgrade more than 3,500 playgrounds.

The Government also repeated its plans to create "studio schools" offering vocational training and close links to business for excluded and badly-behaved pupils.

Ministers want to see smaller and more highly trained governing bodies. Phil Revell, the chief executive of the National Governors Association, said training should be extended to all governors, not just the chair. But he added: "On many governing bodies it is the parent governor places which are the most difficult to fill, and there is a danger that the Government may be setting targets for parent involvement that many schools will struggle to meet."

Parents will be kept better informed of their children's progress.

And there are plans to encourage more schools to put other services such as health, welfare advice and a police presence under their roofs to improve the lot of their pupils. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools would support the plan, but warned it places massive demands on them.

"Secondary schools are already implementing the new 14 to 19 diplomas, personalised learning, a new curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds, extended services and much more," he said. "The Government must be realistic about how quickly initiatives can be put in place and how soon they will start to have an impact. Ministers must not try a 10-year plan in three years."

Children's Plan, pages 18 20

Leading article, page 28


- Review of primary curriculum to clear away "clutter" and create more time for English, maths and a foreign language.

- New testing regime planned to replace existing key stage tests in reading, writing and maths for 11 and 14-year-olds. Instead of all pupils taking tests at the same time they will sit them when they are ready at two fixed times.

- Target of at least 90 per cent of pupils achieving expected levels in both English and maths at 11 by 2020, up from 85 per cent now. Target of at least 90 per cent of children developing well in the early-years foundation stage.

Photograph: Joan Russell; Photograph Joan Russell


- More headteachers will be encouraged to have a police presence in school to prevent trouble that is difficult to deal with.

- Child health services and social care to be based in schools to make them more easily accessible.

- A child health strategy will be published next spring.

- There will also be a review of mental health services to support increasing numbers of young people with mental health problems to be dealt with.

Photograph: North News and Pictures


- High quantity of adverts directed at children could be causing them harm.

- An independent assessment will assess the impact adverts and marketing have on children's well-being.

- A youth alcohol action plan published next year will tackle binge drinking among teenagers and possibly impose tighter rules on drink advertising.

- Dr Tanya Byron is analysing if protection for children using the internet and playing video games is sufficient. Her report is expected in March.

Photograph Alamy


- All children to be given a personal tutor who will also be the main contact for parents. The tutor will help with induction, offer introductory sessions before the start of school and agree learning targets.

- pound;34 million will provide 2 parenting advisers in each local authority.

- A "red book" for each child will record their progress at school. Parents will record health and physical development.

- More school-based parent support advisers.

Photograph: Neil Turner.

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