Colors: Green Color

Teachers and headteachers criticised the government for "last-minute" guidance on what to do during virus outbreaks and local lockdowns as guidance for England was published just days before many schools began term.

The NAHT school leaders' union said the timing was "reprehensible".
In local lockdowns, secondary pupils could be kept home every other fortnight and, in an outbreak, large groups could be told to self-isolate.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said the decision to publish the guidance just before a bank holiday was "nothing short of reprehensible and demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the well-being of school leaders and their teams".

The guidance says this would only happen after "all other measures have been exhausted" - but if cases continue increasing, all students might have to move to remote learning apart from those in vulnerable groups.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the document was a contingency plan for a "worst-case scenario".

Health protection teams will advise schools how many pupils need to isolate for 14 days.

 

The University of Wolverhampton has shown it has the right prescription for inclusivity after ranking third in the UK for BAME attainment gaps in its School of Pharmacy.

Latest figures from Universities UK have shown that there is a still an attainment gap of 13% nationally between the proportion of white students achieving a higher (first or 2.1 classification degree and their Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) counterparts.

The Office for Students (OfS) has tasked universities with eliminating these gaps by 2025.
Leading trade magazine, The Pharmaceutical Journal recently evaluated data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and highlights the University’s third place position among UK Schools of Pharmacy in its awarding gap table.

The University of Wolverhampton shows a negative awarding gap of -2% which means that BAME students are attaining First and 2.1 Master’s of Pharmacy (MPharm) degrees at approximately the same rate as white students – one of only five Schools in the country with a negative or zero awarding gap figure.

Dr Colin Brown, Head of the Wolverhampton School of Pharmacy, said: “We are really proud of our longstanding tradition of positive action in the recruitment of, support for, and development of students and staff who represent all groups within society.

“We recognise the needs and challenges faced by all of our students and we use teaching methods which breakdown barriers, promote inclusivity and develop the skills and attributes needed for success.”

Lanna Zouabi, a second year MPharm student, said: “The course itself is brilliant. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to and learn from, especially the support given by the staff to improve your studies – they are always so open and friendly.

“I’d like to work in a pharmaceutical company, taking their products around the world, combining the two things I love together – pharmacy and travelling.”

The University of Wolverhampton has invested £1/2 million in interactive teaching spaces offering Pharmacy students flexible learning. First, second and third year students studying on the MPharm course have benefited from the £250,000 Team Based Learning facilities at the University’s City Campus. It has also invested £250,000 in a new Pharmacy Practice Suite to support clinical aspects of the course.

Ahead of pupil’s return, parents and carers were being asked to follow the new arrangements that will be in place at the start and end of the school day at their child's school.

Schools have put measures in place to help keep children and families as safe as possible at the beginning and end of school days.

In Sandwell, in the West Midlands, Councillor Joyce Underhill, cabinet member for best start in life, said: "The new term is now just started and we and our schools and academies have some important continuing messages for parents to keep them and their children safe.

"The majority of children will be kept in specific groups or bubbles to ensure reduced contact with others and we ask parents to make sure they are aware of new arrangements for their children.

“Please check with your child’s school to update you on relevant data - and please stick to the times set out by the school.”

The council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Maria Crompton added: "We need all parents to adhere to what is set out by our schools and academies and ask for everyone's co-operation with this.

“I would ask for everyone’s co-operation as it is very important for children not to miss out on their education.  All schools are doing their utmost to ensure the safety of our children.”

The advice comes as part of Council's back to school information for parents which includes a dedicated website to help support and advise parents and children about getting back to school.

Nearly half a million UK pupils face a fresh round of results chaos after exam board Pearson pulled its BTec results on the eve of releasing them.

Pearson said it would be re-grading all its BTecs to bring them in line with A-levels and GCSEs, which are now being graded via school-based assessments. The move affects 450,000 pupils, 250,000 of whom received grades last week, with the rest due today.

Heads said it was incomprehensible that changes were being made this late.

Pearson apologised and acknowledged the additional uncertainty the decision would cause.

The exam board also conducts a large proportion of the GCSEs and A-levels taken by UK pupils. However, the late decision will cause even further disruption to students seeking places in further and higher education. Universities are already struggling to cope with the impact of grade changes on their admissions process.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he could not understand why it had taken Pearson until the late stage to realise the implications of grade changes for its BTec qualifications.

"It really does need to give an explanation of why this has happened. We feel desperately sorry for the students affected in a year when they have already undergone far too much disruption."

Pearson said in a statement: "BTec qualification results have been generally consistent with teacher and learner expectations, but we have become concerned about unfairness in relation to what are now significantly higher outcomes for GCSE and A-levels."

England's exams regulator has already said that the school-assessed GCSE and A-level grades are likely to be higher than last year by nine and 12 percentage points respectively.

The Association of Colleges' Chief Executive, David Hughes, said it had asked Pearson to look at a small number of results which had seemed unfair, adding that the "timing is worrying, because thousands of students were due to get their results in the morning and others have already got results which we know will not go down, but might improve."

He added: "So it is vital for students that this is sorted in days rather than weeks so students have the chance to celebrate and plan their next steps”.

Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said Pearson was right to act but added: "This late notification will cause very significant challenges for schools, trusts and colleges. It simply is unacceptable that some of the most disadvantaged students will not receive their grades tomorrow and that nothing has been done to correct this over the past few days."

Labour's shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said the situation was "totally unacceptable. For some young people to find out less than a day in advance that they will not be receiving their grades is utterly disgraceful.

"Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education should have had a grip of this situation days ago." She urged the government to set a clear deadline by which every young person must receive their grades.

Pearson has now written to all schools, colleges and training providers to say the following qualifications are being re-graded:

BTec Level 3 Nationals (2010 QCF and 2016 RQF)
BTec Level 1/2 Tech Awards
BTec Level 2 Technicals
BTec Level 1/2 Firsts

A Pearson spokesman said: "Although we generally accepted centre assessment grades for internal (i.e. coursework) units, we subsequently calculated the grades for the examined units using historical performance data with a view of maintaining overall outcomes over time.

"Our review will remove these Pearson-calculated grades and apply consistency across teacher-assessed internal grades and examined grades that students were unable to sit. We will work urgently with you to reissue these grades and will update you as soon as we possibly can. We want to reassure students that no grades will go down as part of this review.

"Our priority is to ensure fair outcomes for BTec students in relation to A-Levels and GCSEs and that no BTec student is disadvantaged. Therefore, we ask schools and colleges not to issue any BTec L1 and L2 results on 20 August, as these will be reviewed and where appropriate, re-graded."

Councillor Jayne Francis, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, talks about how schools are safely welcoming back all Birmingham pupils.


As schools and early years settings are welcoming back all pupils I know head teachers, managers and staff were really looking forward to seeing children back.


It was really important that they returned, not just for their academic and child development progress but for social wellbeing too – children will learn and see their friends again.


So it is vital that parents and carers were confident that schools and settings were ready and safe for children to return. Head teachers, managers and staff continuingly worked hard through the summer holidays to prepare for full re-opening.
They are doing risk assessments and have been working closely with public health colleagues; schools and settings are well-prepared to deal with any cases and fully understand public health procedures.


So, what should parents, carers and children expect? Things will vary from school to schools, but here are some examples:
Classes may be organised in ‘bubbles’ as it is difficult for everyone to socially distance, particularly very young pupils.
Drop-off and pick-up arrangements will be organised to ensure there aren’t too many people at school during busy times.
There will be no large assemblies


Play times and lunch times will be organised to ensure there is no over-crowding and children can enjoy playing with their friends in a safe environment.


Early years settings look different too, with the examples above applying too – but there are also changes to spaces with less soft furnishings and sharing of toys and equipment.


Yes, things are a little different, but schools and settings are trying to make any changes as easy as possible, and it is all done to keep children and staff safe.


If parents or carers have any concerns they should contact their school or early years setting. Members of staff were really looking forward to welcoming back the children and young people and working with them to catch up with any learning they may have missed out on since March.


Stay safe and enjoy your return to school!

Exams regulators are reviewing its guidance on how to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades using mock exam results - hours after publishing it.

It follows after Ofqual set out what constituted a "valid" mock exam for students appealing against A-level results in England. But the regulator has now suspended those criteria, and further information will be published "in due course".

A Department for Education statement said that Ofqual "continues to consider how to best deliver the appeals process to give schools and pupils the clarity they need". It added that it had been working with Ofqual to achieve an appeals process that was as fair as possible.

Neither A-level nor GCSE students were able to sit public exams this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and almost 40% of A-level grades were marked down from teachers' predictions by an Ofqual algorithm.

Chair of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, said the decision to review appeals guidance left students and schools in confusion.

"That is a huge mess. Goodness knows what is going on at Ofqual. It is the last thing we need at this time. This is just unacceptable in my view," he said. "Students and teachers are incredibly anxious - particularly the students who are worried about their future. This has got to be sorted out.

"Ofqual shouldn't put things on websites, take them away, sow confusion. This is just not on and it has got to be changed."

Meanwhile, the statistical model used by Ofqual to determine grades faces two legal challenges, which argue students were unfairly judged on the school they attend.

Ofqual said that, where a written mock exam was not taken, it would consider other teacher assessments instead. However, a statement published late on Saturday night on the regulator's website read: "Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals.

"This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual Board and further information will be published in due course."

Hundreds of students have held a demonstration in central London, demanding clarify over the appeals procedure.

Holding placards - many of which called for the education secretary's resignation - they made their way through Westminster to the Department for Education. Dozens of protesters sat on the front steps while others shouted "come out Gavin" and "justice for the working class". Many of the demonstrators have called the downgrading of results "classist".

"Baffling, mind-boggling, inadequate, shell-shocked" - these are the politer responses from school leaders, trying to make sense of Ofqual's bizarre retraction of its own rules over A-level appeals.

An early morning email from an otherwise respectable head teacher was titled: "WTF?"
Ofqual is meant to be an independent exams watchdog, but assuming it didn't overrule itself, who did pull the plug on what they'd announced for appeals over mock exams?

The non-decision still leaves students anxiously waiting to find out if they can appeal and claim their university places. There is also irritation that ministers didn't head off this chaos in advance, or even when problems emerged in Scotland.

In the end, whether it's by Ofqual or the Department for Education or Number 10, a decision will have to be made.

Do they stick with the current grades and retro-fit them with a functioning appeals system?

And will that withstand the unpicking of the fairness of results and legal challenges?

Or do they take the political hit - and the risk of creating other types of unfairness - by switching to teachers' predictions, as eventually happened in Scotland?

For ministers, it's time to turn over the exam paper and start their answers.