News at a glance

30th October 2015 at 00:00

Wilshaw: ‘Nobody can say phonics isn’t working’

Phonics teaching has been one of the most significant factors behind the growing success of primary schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed this week. In the first of what will be a monthly series of commentaries (, the head of Ofsted writes that statistics on primary education are “highly impressive and encouraging”. In a move that is likely to fan the flames of the debate over phonics, he adds that “nobody can still convincingly argue that systematic phonics isn’t the most effective method of teaching children to read”. Sir Michael states that the benefits are being lost by the time pupils enter secondary education and that there is “great cause for concern” about this transition.

Recruitment crisis: schools spend £733m on supply

Schools have paid £733 million to teacher supply agencies as a result of staff shortages, classroom leaders warned this week. According to the NUT teaching union, companies are making “huge profits” from the recruitment crisis. General secretary Christine Blower said: “Supply teacher agencies are making millions while supply teachers’ pay continues to plummet. Schools are being charged huge fees by agencies, but this is money that should be used for children’s education, not boosting the profits of private companies.” * TES Global, the parent company of TES, owns teacher supply agency Vision for Education.

‘Stark’ North-South divide in early years progress

Poor children in the North are lagging behind their counterparts in London even before they turn 5 owing to a “stark early years gap”, according to new research. An analysis of government figures by the IPPR North thinktank finds that less than half (47 per cent) of children born into the poorest families in the North of England achieve a “good” level in the early years foundation stage, as opposed to 59 per cent in the capital – a gap of 12 percentage points. The news comes as academy sponsors wait to hear which of them will be awarded a share of £10 million to take on struggling schools as part of chancellor George Osborne’s vision for a “Northern Powerhouse”.

Winston Churchill archive opened up to schools

Schools have been given free access to the papers of Sir Winston Churchill, including the former prime minister’s official exchanges with kings and presidents. The digitised archive was set up in 2012 on a subscription basis, but publisher Bloomsbury has now developed the Churchill Archive for Schools website after a donation of $1 million (£654,000) from businessman and philanthropist Laurence Geller. As well as the papers, the site contains teaching aids to help schools get the most out of the archive, which is available at

Deprived pupils denied access to medical careers

Young people in some of the most deprived areas of England are being denied the opportunity to pursue careers in medicine because they are not able to study separate sciences at GCSE, according to the British Medical Association (BMA). The doctors’ union is calling for all secondary schools to offer triple science – separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics – which is the academic route favoured by the majority of medical schools. The association is concerned that 80 per cent of UK medical students come from just 20 per cent of the country’s schools. BMA analysis finds that, in deprived areas, fewer schools offer triple science at GCSE – and in those schools that do offer triple science, fewer students study the qualifications.

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