Academies Week » Academies Week | Academies Week A new newspaper for all schools Tue, 16 Dec 2014 06:30:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SSAT national conference supplement 2014 Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:12:23 +0000 SSAT supplement download

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Head at centre of ‘misconduct’ allegations proclaims her innocence as she quits Floreat board Sat, 13 Dec 2014 14:59:26 +0000 A headteacher at the centre of an investigation into allegations of “gross misconduct” at a north London academies trust has claimed she is innocent of the charges against her.

Patricia Sowter

Patricia Sowter

Patricia Sowter, who was until recently executive headteacher of the Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT), was one of three senior managers suspended in late November by trust chair Andry Efthymiou along with her husband Phill Sowter, a trust director, and Cuckoo Hall headteacher Sharon Ahmet.

Both sides have until now remained quiet on the issue, with the trust claiming it cannot comment further on the allegations until an investigation, which is involving the Department for Education and Ofsted, has been completed.

But Floreat Education, a group which runs primary schools in London of which Ms Sowter was a board member but has now stood down from, has released a statement about her resignation, saying she claimed to be innocent.

A Floreat spokesperson said: “Patricia Sowter has decided to stand down from the board of Floreat Education while she is subject to allegations that will be independently investigated in respect of CHAT.

“Mrs Sowter has stated that she is innocent of those allegations made against her and looks forward to her name being cleared.

“The board of Floreat has reluctantly agreed to Mrs Sowter’s request and agreed with her that the ‘strategic adviser’ relationship between CHAT and Floreat should be suspended pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

In a letter to parents sent on December 5, CHAT announced that David Penkert, one of the two existing Deputy Heads of Cuckoo Hall, was covering the role of headteacher while the suspension remains in place.

In the letter, Ms Efthymiou added: “I would like to thank parents and carers again across all five of our academies for their continued support in helping us to continue business as usual, which is really important for the sake of all of our pupils and students.”

It was the second letter sent to parents about the investigation. The first, sent at the end of November, claimed that the allegations were “in no way related to the safety or wellbeing of pupils”.

A trust spokesperson said: “The Department for Education investigation into the allegations of gross misconduct is now underway. The CHAT board of trustees is co-operating fully with that investigation, in order that the allegations can be investigated thoroughly.

“It is therefore not appropriate for us to comment any further on specific questions about CHAT or its academies.”

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It’s simple: the numbers just don’t add up Mon, 15 Dec 2014 06:30:17 +0000 The principles underlying the changes to GCSE maths are sound. But the practicalities are less so. For a start, where will all the extra teachers come from?

When Michael Gove announced last November that maths GCSE was going to get tougher, I doubt many of us realised just how tough. From September, it will almost double in size.

The new qualification will provide greater challenge for the most able students. This is a welcome change; it will better prepare students for the demands of maths A-level. At present a student can get an A* in maths GCSE if they are bright and hard-working, even if they have gaps in their underlying mathematical understanding. From 2017, the top grade will be much harder to achieve and will require deep conceptual understanding of a broad range of mathematical topics, as well as strong reasoning and problem-solving skills.

The changes to the foundation tier focus on ensuring that every student masters fundamental maths. The syllabus now includes a large number of topics previously reserved for higher tier students, including quadratic equations and trigonometry.

Given that students often start year 7 sometimes not knowing their times-tables and even unable to tell the time, this will be challenging. At secondary school we have five years to build up their confidence and to develop their mathematical fluency and understanding of a broad curriculum. It’s a daunting task, but entirely worthwhile.

The reforms value mathematics as fundamental to facilitating learning in other subjects and the principles underlying the changes to GCSE are sound. Unfortunately the practicalities are less so.

Mr Gove’s announcement anticipated that schools would want to increase time spent teaching maths. Given the amount of new topics there is clearly a need for a significant increase in contact time, and not just at GCSE. To master the underlying conceptual knowledge, more maths teaching time is also needed at key stage 3.

Entire cohorts will sit their exams in 2017 woefully unprepared

Proactive schools are ahead of the game – they have already implemented new schemes of work, accompanied by an increased number of maths lessons at both key stages 3 and 4. In many cases, time at key stage 4 has been found by reducing the number of GCSEs taken by the 2017 cohort. Where key stage 3 maths teaching time has been increased, this may have been achieved by reducing lessons in subjects such as dance or drama.

Schools that choose not to increase maths teaching time are likely come unstuck two years from now. They may end up rushing through the syllabus or simply be unable to complete it. Entire cohorts will sit their exams in 2017 woefully unprepared. Why aren’t these schools following the government’s advice to increase
teaching time in maths? In most cases it’s because they will be unable to staff the additional lessons.

And here we have the real problem. To add an extra hour a week of maths lessons, schools will need to recruit an additional maths teacher. This is where the plan starts to fall apart. Currently around one in five schools has a vacancy in maths – and the recruitment crisis is worsening. With the requirements of the new GCSE, plus the introduction of the new core maths post-16 qualifications, the number of vacancies is set to rise dramatically this year. Where will the teachers come from to fill them? Demand is increasing at the same time that supply is falling.

Has the government put the cart before the horse? Before devising a new qualification that requires additional teachers, they should have ensured a sufficient supply of maths teachers. This isn’t just a recruitment crisis. It’s a failure of education for a generation of young people. It’s a catastrophe for the country. The government is concerned about the UK’s global competitiveness and they’ve determined that maths education is the key. But without teachers, we can’t implement their policies. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the numbers just don’t add up.



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More schools hit with exam malpractice penalties Fri, 12 Dec 2014 13:07:49 +0000 The number of school and colleges issued with penalties for exam malpractice increased sharply this summer, newly released figures show.

In total, 217 schools were hit with penalties for issues identified during GCSEs and A-levels this summer, up on the 140 penalties issued a year before.

The increase coincided with the end of modular study for GCSEs, and of January assessment for AS and A-levels, meaning there were around 2.2 million more entries for summer exams.

The majority of schools found to have engaged in malpractice – 156 – were given a written warning, while 51 schools were required to produce a report on the issues identified. Other schools were given penalties that could have included more inspection and monitoring of exam arrangements, or even a suspension of entries.

The figures, produced by Ofqual based on information provided by exam boards, show that 37 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were found to have provided unwarranted assistance to candidates this summer. No schools were found to have committed such malpractice last year.

Penalties issued to individual students decreased in both absolute and percentage terms. This year 2,550 exam candidates were penalised for exam malpractice, down on the 2,590 cases the previous year – despite an increase in the number of people sitting GCSEs and A-levels.

The numbers are also well down on five years ago, when 4,130 candidates were found to have cheated in exams.

There was a slight increase in the number of students bringing unauthorised materials – including mobile phones – into exam rooms, and a jump in the number of students found to have engaged in copying or collusion, from 520 cases to 620.


Penalties where malpractice was found to have been committed by an individual teacher or invigilator increased slightly on last summer, from 110 cases to 119.

In the greatest number of cases – 82 – this was because of assistance given to candidates.

Last week, Academies Week reported that the number of schools that had had whole cohorts of key stage 2 results annulled had increased sixfold from 2012 to 2013.

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Primary school results improve across all subjects Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:17:50 +0000 Performance in key stage two SATS has increased across all subjects, newly published figures show.

Primary league tables show that 79 per cent of pupils reached the expected level in all of reading, writing and mathematics this year, against 75 per cent in 2013.

The largest increases in results came in reading and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) though results were also up in maths, science and writing.

Achievement gaps have also narrowed between disadvantaged children – defined as looked after children, or those who have been for free school meals (FSM) in the last six years – and other pupils.

In total, 67 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved at least level 4 in all of reading, writing and mathematics, versus 83 per cent for other pupils – a one percentage point gap reduction over last year.

Girls continued to be more likely than boys to achieve level 4 in reading and SPAG tests, with no difference between the sexes for maths.

Welcoming the results, Schools Minister David Laws said: “I am pleased to see that primaries have responded to the challenge of a higher floor standard – we have raised the bar and schools have raised their game.

“It is also encouraging to see the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers continue to narrow and parents, teachers and pupils deserve to be congratulated for their efforts.

“But we know there is more to do and there are still too many areas with simply unacceptable levels of attainment for disadvantaged pupils.”

Results for all subjects are as follows:




% at level 4 or higher



Reading 89 85
Spelling, punctuation & grammar 77 74
Writing (teacher assessed) 85 83
Maths 86 86
Science 88 88


Although overall percentages remain the same in maths and science, then number of children achieving level 5 or higher increased – revealing an improvement among higher-achieving pupils.

A total of 768 schools did not reach the government’s floor standard for attainment – now set at 65 per cent of pupils achieving level 4 in reading and writing tests and teacher assessment of writing. That figure is in line with last year, despite the bar being raised.

The Department for Education said that, had the floor standard not been increased from 60 per cent to 65 per cent achieving expected levels, only 469 schools would have been below the threshold

The floor target is set to increase further in future, with 85 per cent of pupils required to reach the equivalent of the higher level of 4b in reading, writing and maths from 2016.

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Teacher duo aims to top off ‘amazing’ year Sat, 13 Dec 2014 07:30:08 +0000 Two teachers from York are taking on Band Aid and letting themselves dream of a Christmas No 1.

Robin Parmiter and Ian Wilson, both teachers at Huntington School, will re-form pop duo Disco Mister in an attempt to seal an amazing year.

The two came to prominence when they released their song Bring It Home during the World Cup earlier this year.

The song quickly became a favourite of fans and had the backing of celebrities such as Clare Balding and Jack Whitehall.

It also lasted longer than the England team did in the tournament to become Amazon’s most downloaded World Cup 2014 song.

Now the pair want to follow in the footsteps of Slade and Wizzard with their Christmas offering, Everybody Dance (Happy Christmas).


From left, Ian Wilson and Robin Parmiter at Huntington School

Ian, 28, who is a music technician and also teaches some music at the school, said: “We want people to celebrate and party with us, and what bigger party is there than Christmas time?

“It’s a big challenge trying to ignore the clichés and create something new, so we’ve focused on making a song that gets people dancing and gets them even more excited for the holidays.”

His music partner Robin, 33, has been teaching for six years and currently teaches philosophy. “It’s reminding everybody of the magic and mystery of the season,” he says.

“It’s the best time of year when family and friends get together to dance, drink and be merry.”

The pair have recorded the video for Everybody Dance with Karl Elwell, who directed their previous videos, and they plan to release it in time for the song to compete for the coveted Christmas No 1 slot.

“We hope the video makes people smile and captures a bit of the mystery of the season.” Ian says. “It ends on a question – and we’d love to hear people’s answers.”

Like Bring It Home, the festive song will raise money for charity, this time helping to build and equip a school in rural western Kenya.

They have teamed up with the York-based Webcertain, which specialises in international campaigns, and joined its charity venture Build a School in Africa.

“We want to raise money that supports education for people who desperately want it, and need it. People may grumble about schools in this country sometimes, but we’re so privileged really. This money will help a community fight poverty for themselves.” Robin says.

Ian adds: “We hope the song and video brings a bit of Christmas cheer and gets everybody in the mood for this magical time of year.”

Huntington headteacher John Tomsett said: “I’m very proud of Disco Mister’s creative and charitable Christmas song. Their effort, energy and exuberance add something fun and uplifting to our school culture and the wider teaching profession. I’m always delighted to see members of staff pursue projects that bring them (and others) meaning and joy.”

Main pic: Disco Mister duo Ian Wilson (left) and Robin Parmiter (right) record the music video to ‘Everybody Dance’


]]> 1 An insider’s view of Hollywood Sat, 13 Dec 2014 07:30:35 +0000 British actor Carey Mulligan recently gave a group of 200 west London pupils an insider’s view of life behind the lens.

Pupils from Greenside Primary School and Hammersmith Academy questioned The Great Gatsby actress in an exclusive Q&A event.

Ms Mulligan, who recently played a schoolteacher in a West End production of Skylight, talked openly about her career, inspirations and how to get into film.

Having been counselled for her role in Skylight by Greenside headteacher Karen Bastick-Styles, the actress was keen to visit the school and help young people use film as a cultural and educational tool.

“I remember school and the times that I wasn’t engaged . . . the minute a film was shown, I found a way in to learning.”

Ms Bastick-Styles, said: “It is not every day pupils have the chance to engage with an actor such as Carey and get a unique insight into the world of film. I hope that it will be a real inspiration to them.”

Pic: Carey Mulligan visits pupils at Greenside Primary School


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Cabot academies fill the stage Sat, 13 Dec 2014 07:30:26 +0000 Schools across South Gloucestershire put on a Christmas spectacular when they joined forces for their annual concert.

Hosted by King’s Oak Academy, the concert took place in the Colston Hall in Bristol and included eight of Cabot Learning Federation’s academy’s partner primary schools, Beacon Rise, Courtney, The Tynings School, Kings Forest, Parkwall, Summerhill Academy, the Park Primary and St. Stephens.

With more than 500 voices on stage, the children performed a range of songs including, Happy, Standing in the Hall of Fame, Hallelujah, The Camel Boogie Woogie and a medley of Christmas songs.

Amongst all the fun and excitement, the concert doubled up as a fundraiser with a silver collection being made in aid of Young Carers for Bristol & South Gloucestershire.

Tim Warren, team leader of performance and participation at King’s Oak who produced and directed the concert, said: “The students and pupils really enjoyed the day and worked really well together, they put on a fantastic performance thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, who also joined in.”

Pic: Pupils from a host of schools in South Gloucestershire perform their annual Christmas concert



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