Taskmaster star Alex Horne to host the Tes Schools Awards 2024

TES awards

The biggest event in the education calendar is back, the Tes School Awards 2024, with the creator and co-host of BAFTA and National Comedy Award-winning hit TV show, Taskmaster, Alex Horne, and he’s bringing his six-piece band, ‘The Horne Section’ with him. Dubbed ‘the Oscars of Education’, the Tes Schools Awards celebrates excellence across the UK’s education sector, bringing together both State and Independent schools in one glamorous evening event in London.  This year looks set to be the finest year yet, with a high level of entrants across all 21 categories. The panel of independent judges, made up of leaders from across the world of education, have already remarked that the quality and calibre of nominations at this stage is making their job a tough one.   Alex Horne said, “As a former child who was taught by at least some excellent teachers, it’s an honour and a contractual obligation to be hosting this year’s Tes Schools Awards. I’ll have my band with me and they all ‘studied jazz’ at university so there are enormous gaps in their education that will hopefully be filled one day, and maybe this will be that day.” Time is running out to get secured Earlybird tickets. This year the Tes Schools Awards take place on Friday 21st June 2024 at the Grosvenor Hotel, Park Lane, London, and will be attended by many of the nominated teachers from across the UK. READ MORE QA EDUCATION NEWS: 8 ways to set an effective school budget Attendees will also get to watch an excerpt of the Lion King performed by the Disney Theatrical Group. Come celebrate the best in education with us and Alex Horne, The Horne Section, and the Disney Theatrical Group. Earlybird tickets for the event are available here. To find out more about the Tes Schools Awards, please visit Tes Schools Awards | Tes

Competition regulator to investigate UK’s largest education software firm ESS

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating whether ESS has broken the law by taking action to prevent schools from switching to a new management information system provider. Management information systems are important databases used to handle student information, such as attendance and safeguarding, and most UK schools are required to have these databases in place. Education Software Solutions Ltd (ESS) is the largest provider of these systems in the UK, with approximately a 50% share of the market in England, and even higher in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has received complaints from a number of ESS’s customers suggesting the firm is making it difficult for them to switch to a new provider. These schools reported they had been warned by ESS that they would not be able to share a copy of their database with a new provider, as doing so would breach ESS’s intellectual property rights. The CMA understands that sharing database back-up copies is a longstanding and widespread practice used in the sector for data transfer of this kind and, without it, the CMA is concerned that schools’ ability to move to a new provider would be severely hampered. While some means of switching are permitted by the company, they are reportedly complex, time consuming and error prone. Moreover, schools and competitors reported that ESS had objected to the alternative solutions put forward to enable the extraction of their data. The CMA will be investigating ESS to determine whether or not the law has been breached. As part of this, the CMA will consider whether it needs to impose interim measures to prevent harm from occurring while it carries out its investigation. If the allegations against ESS are found to be true, such behaviour could be a breach competition law. Juliette Enser, Interim Executive Director of Competition Enforcement, said: “We’re concerned about the complaints we’ve received regarding ESS’s alleged behaviour. As such, we’ll be investigating their conduct with urgency to get to the bottom of the matter. “Management information systems are an integral part of protecting schools’ data, reducing costs, and safeguarding students. It’s essential that schools are able to pick the most appropriate system for their needs – and change providers with ease when their contract is up.” In 2022, ESS offered the CMA commitments following a review to determine whether the company was using its dominant position in the market to push schools into accepting new 3-year contracts, where previously they had run for just one year. The binding commitments enabled eligible schools to exit early from their 3-year contract, and the CMA continues to monitor ESS’s compliance with these commitments. The CMA’s new concerns in relation to ESS’s conduct focus on a different possible abuse of dominance and are therefore the subject of a separate investigation. A spokesperson for ESS, said: “We are extremely surprised at this sudden announcement by the CMA, which overlooks the fact that there are legitimate methods of migrating data from SIMS to the systems provided by our competitors.  Guidance on these methods has long been available and we have made multiple communications to competitors, customers (and their support providers) explaining this. “That some competitors have chosen to ignore these methods and have instead created a “workaround” that accesses our core code, is the only abuse in this situation.  “It simply cannot be correct that the only way to sustain a competitive market is for one organisation to be forced to allow its competitors open access to its core intellectual property, which it has invested large amounts of time and money in developing.“

World Book Day – judgement and expectations are putting children off reading

World Book Day. Two children reading

New research on Wolrd Book Day shows that 1 in 5 kids feel judged for what they read, while a quarter are made to read things they don’t want to The sad truth is that fewer children than ever are choosing to read. So, because reading for pleasure improves life chances and World Book Day is all about children, this year we have heard from them – in their own voices. World Book Day conducted research with funding from The Mercers’ Company, and partnered with Beano Brain, to speak directly to children aged 7-14 about their feelings around reading for pleasure. The feedback is loud and clear; many of the 1,000 children we spoke to told us they feel judged and embarrassed about reading – and this quickly puts them off. If children feel shamed at an early age about their reading ability, or about their reading choices, they are less likely to read for pleasure, losing out on the benefits it brings to their well-being and educational success. Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. Children are sending a clear message that adults need to understand the barriers they face and let go of expectations and judgements around reading, giving them choice – and a chance – to grow up as enthusiastic readers. “Adults think proper reading is… non-fiction, thick books, books with only words.” World Book Day focus groups respondent, 2023 “When you get older, the excitement of it all gets taken away from you, I don’t think I’d be able to read through a whole book now like I used to.” Boy, 14, Non-Reader, Beano Brain research 2023 Children feel they have no voice or choice Lack of choice is the primary issue for children when it comes to reading for pleasure. They feel they are not being given the freedom to choose the books they want to read, with the research revealing that over a third of children say they cannot choose what they want to read at home (34%) or at school (35%). One in four children say they’re encouraged to read things they simply don’t want to, while one fifth (21%) say they can’t find anything they want to read at home, which increases to a quarter at school (25%). Many children feel confused or overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a book (23%), creating further barriers to enjoyment. Many children say they would prefer their parents to stop reading to them, because they think their parents wouldn’t approve of the book they want to read.  “I would rather read by myself  – my parents don’t enjoy the books I want to read.” World Book Day focus groups respondent, 2023 “We only have set times that we are allowed to read in school. I like reading when I’m on my own, not when I’m forced to read because it puts me off.” Girl, 11, Non-Reader, Beano Brain research 2023 READ MORE QA News: BBC:Microbit invites children to survey school playgrounds The experience of feeling judged is also impacting children right across the age group. Over one child in every 10 say they feel judged by their reading ability at school (15%) and at home (16%), while twice as many – one in five – feel judged by others on their reading choices, both at school (20%) and at home (18%). ”I didn’t tell my teacher that I didn’t like that book in case she thought it was a bit rude and told me off.” Boy, 10, Light Reader, Beano Brain Research, 2023 Replace with: “There’s really no point in reading; I was really bad in primary school, I couldn’t do anything the teacher said.” Boy, 13, Non-Reader, Beano Brain research 2023 Adults have an essential role to play The positive role that grown-ups can play in a child’s reading journey was also clearly described by the children we spoke to. Two in five children think reading is best when they feel like they’re good at it (40%) while 30% say it’s best when they feel confident and encouraged. Over a quarter of kids say they believe they would enjoy reading more if it was made more fun (30%) and there was less nagging from grown-ups (28%) to do it. Over a quarter (28%) said reading is best when they can talk about reading and books with friends and family, while 18% said being read to regularly at home would help them enjoy reading more, alongsideseeing parents read themselves for fun (17%). However, only a quarter (25%) say their parents relax by reading in the home compared to scrolling on their phone (56%), watching TV (52%) or watching their phone or tablet (40%). “Adults usually tell you to read but then they don’t read and go on their phones. My teachers and my dad do that!” Girl, 11, Non-Reader (Beano Brain research, 2023) Children know what they want and the benefits when it works When World Book Day asked children when reading is best, autonomy and control were by far the most important factors: A quarter of children also believe they would enjoy reading more if they had more freedom to read in other ways, such as graphic novels/ audiobooks (25%) Children also appreciate the opportunities reading can offer them; one in four (24%) believe that reading lets them show who they are as a person and what they like doing, over a third feel that reading for fun makes them feel calmer and say they enjoy reading in their spare time, while 30% feel that reading allows them to go to different worlds and learn about different places and things. “I like to get into my pyjamas and curl up on the sofa; it doesn’t have to be silent but it has to be calm” Girl, 11, Reader, Beano Brain research 2023 Alice Read, teacher at Buckingham Primary School, Hampton comments: “I have had a child in the classroom and they had the book that they thought they wanted me to see they were reading, and underneath that, the book

Are mobile phones being banned in UK schools?

School children looking at a mobile phone

The UK government has issued new guidance to schools amid a call for a total ban of mobile phones in schools. Research has found that almost all secondary age pupils have a mobile phone. The Department for Education says 97% of 12-year-olds carry a smart phone and they are concerned that they can be a distraction in the classroom. The DfE has today (February 19) said it is encouraging all schools to prohibit children from accessing phones when they are at school so they can focus on their education. The negative side of phones in schools The impact of mobile phones in schools Is there a mandatory ban? The DfE has stopped short of legislating for a compulsory ban of phones in schools. It is leaving the decision up to schools themselves but has said it strongly supports schools prohibiting the use of phones by pupils. What is the guidance? The DfE policy says the following: READ MORE: Is it time to scrap one word Ofsted ratings? READ MORE: Managing school behaviour – the power of positive parental engagement What are education leaders saying? Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  “As most schools already have policies in place to deal with the problems of mobile phone use, this guidance will make little difference and is a distraction from the many problems facing education.  “What Gillian Keegan should be doing is facing up to the deep challenges in our schools. The education secretary must acknowledge and address the detrimental impact of real-terms funding cuts on children and young people’s education, the lack of mental health support both within and outside of school, the teacher recruitment and retention crisis and the rising levels of child poverty.  “These are the issues school leaders are currently most concerned about and if resolved will make a difference when helping students make positive choices and develop good learning habits.” Mark Balaam, White Ribbon Ambassador and founder of imabi, said: “In principle, this is a good thing. Mobile phones have transformed schools in recent years, opening a whole new front for teachers to deal with and monitor. “We all know that’s essentially an impossible job, so banning them in schools would seem like a sensible move. However, the simple truth is that the genie is out of the bottle. “Smartphones are integral to so many – and indeed their use has even been built into part of the curriculum in some circumstances – so cutting them out entirely will be almost impossible to implement. “The emphasis should be on providing support to help students – including guidance and advice, as well as the ability to discreetly report and flag incidents of abuse and inappropriate behaviour. “Handing in phones at the start of the day doesn’t stop them being used outside of school for bullying. So, instead, educators should be offering the support to counteract and reduce the impact – as it’s impossible to stop entirely. “With so much of modern life built on smartphones, it’s counter-intuitive to remove them from the education mix completely. We should be integrating them and educating future generations on safe usage, not acting as if they don’t exist.” Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton, said: “Most schools already forbid the use of mobile phones during the school day, or allow their use only in limited and stipulated circumstances. “We have lost count of the number of times that ministers have now announced a crackdown on mobile phones in schools. It is a non-policy for a non-problem. “The government would be far better off putting its energies into bringing to heel the online platforms via which children are able to access disturbing and extreme content.”

Researchers find widespread support for Ofsted report card plan

Ofsted inspection

Parents and teachers want Ofsted inspections and the school accountability system to be more transparent, well-rounded, and less high-stakes, a major new report into public support for education reform has found.  And they have agreed that it is time to scrap the one word judgements that can taint schools for years. Published in the same week that Ofsted’s critical report of Caversham Primary School was named as a factor in the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, research commissioned by the Laidlaw Foundation has found that mums, dads and carers are overwhelmingly in favour of a report card-style Ofsted accountability model, along the lines of Labour’s proposed reforms. Only 6 per cent of those polled said they didn’t like the idea of doing away with the current “one-word” judgement system.  As well as conducting polling, the report’s authors, Public First, also spoke to focus groups of teachers and educationalists to explore the on-the-ground reality of meaningful reform to the education system. The parental desire for more balanced accountability is likely to be a reflection of an appetite for a broader curriculum offer. While parents want schools to maintain a focus on academic outcomes, they are also very keen to see expanded extra-curricular activities and the teaching of “life skills”, such as healthy eating and digital and financial literacy.  Parents are almost twice as likely (57%) to name preparing children for adult life as an essential task for schools compared to preparation for further academic study (32%). Some 54% of parents would prefer for their child to go to a school prioritising extra-curricular activities and life skills, versus 37% that prefer that their child goes than to a school prioritising academic achievement and exams. As a result, the report’s authors have called an extended school day, as well as an injection of funding into the system to pay for it and staff to run it. Importantly, while academy trusts and schools would be held accountable for this extended provision, it would need to be designed in such a way that it would not increase stress or workload for heads and teachers, possibly by bringing in civic groups to run the sessions. The report had 10 key findings:  The report also included nine recommendations for reform based on the views of parents, teachers and educationists.  Susanna Kempe, chief executive of the Laidlaw Foundation, said: “A third of children do not pass their English and maths GCSE at age 16; for children who have received Free School Meals at some point in the last six years, this figure rises to more than half.[1] At the same time, employers complain that new recruits lack core work skills, there is a dramatic rise in mental health issues amongst the young, teachers are leaving the profession in droves and senior leaders find the stress of Ofsted inspections beyond intolerable, with devastating consequences. The current system of accountability is not working. We can and must do better. Parents, carers and the teaching community know what matters. If we start to trust that, and measure that, education can be the extraordinary force for good it ought to be.” Ed Dorrell, partner at Public First, said: “The ultimate reward for getting this right could be the creation of a new generation of happy and healthy young people. Often acting through successful multi-academy trusts, primaries and secondaries could once again become community and civic institutions – institutions that are capable, ultimately, of playing a role in helping to rebuild our fractured society and local communities. “This research suggests that there is huge appetite both within and outside the education system for something akin to this vision, but only if the reforms needed to make it happen are conceived of, funded and delivered well.” Read more QA Education news

Gogglebox star Baasit Siddiqui celebrates Nottingham school’s Apple award

Gogglebox star Bassait Siddiqui visits Parkdale Primary School in Nottingham

Former teacher and Gogglebox star Baasit Siddiqui has seen the importance digital learning plays in children’s education following a visit to the forward-thinking Parkdale Primary School which has been recognised by Apple for its commitment to “continuous innovation using technology”.   Mr Siddiqui, who previously worked as an IT teacher, visited the school to see first-hand the innovative technology championed by the Parkdale community, which has led to its status as an ‘Apple Distinguished School’. The school, part of the Transform Trust family, has been recognised by Apple as “one of the most innovative schools in the world” for its commitment to continuous innovation in education through its digital practice and whole-school integration of products, such as iPads, to create exemplary learning for its pupils at school and at home.  Mr Siddiqui said: “It is super exciting to see digital technology being used in such an innovative way, but it is not a flash in the pan. There is a lot of thought and effort going into it and at the heart of it is ‘how does this benefit the children and the teaching team?” “It is encouraging to see so much effort has gone into this, not just from the school, but from the wider trust as well, giving teachers that autonomy to experiment with technology, see what works, celebrate successes, and this ultimately benefits the children. “The children take pride in championing the cool stuff they are doing using digital technology and that makes them well-rounded, confident young people and the fact that Parkdale provides that environment is lovely to see.” Apple Distinguished Schools are recognised as centres of leadership and educational excellence, with a clear vision for how technology-rich environments support learning goals.   As an Apple Distinguished School, Parkdale invited educators across the country to visit and experience the benefits of digital learning and how technology allows pupils to let their creativity flow using platforms, such as Chatterpix and Sketchers School, designed to educate and inspire.  This ties in perfectly with Transform Trust’s vision to raise aspirations and provide equitable life chances for every child, while its values (Respect, Kindness, Equity and Creativity)- underpin every aspect of school life, inside and outside of the classroom.   Visitors heard informative talks from Jenny Hinton, Parkdale’s digital lead, and Abdul Chohan, vice president of Showbie, an innovative app helping teachers create and manage assignments, give feedback, and communicate with pupils in one place.  Mr Chohan said: “Transform Trust has been working with the Showbie team to embed research-based practices with assessment and feedback as a day-to-day practice. This is enabling the Trust to ensure that every child has equitable access to learning. “Showbie works with schools, Multi Academy Trusts in the UK and with schools globally to embed a digital strategy that empowers teachers to provide the best possible learning experience for their students. “I have seen the amazing and engaging work the children at Parkdale have been able to experience through their digital learning.  “We are moving from translation to transformation. Teachers explain their concepts to their children, and we want children to become independent learners. We are moving the scaffolding, providing support initially but then we want the children to speak, explain, talk and show how they’ve understood something. They can use this on different platforms such Showbie and Chatterpix. It is essentially children demonstrating they have understood something.” Apple Authorised Education Specialist and Apple Services Provider, Jigsaw24 has worked alongside Parkdale and Terri Stockton (Education Business Manager at Jigsaw24) was integral to the smooth running of the day.   Terri said: “As Apple Professional Learning Specialists, Jigsaw24 is really proud to be working with Parkdale and this amazing trust. “Jenny’s relentless passion and hard work to empower the school is inspiring to see and we’re proud to be behind this, supporting the great work at school and trust level. “We have seen first-hand their continual progress and how confident the children are with this digital empowerment.” Peter Hillier, Parkdale head teacher, said: “We are delighted to be recognised as an Apple Distinguished School for 2023-26. Our digital progression has been a long-term objective for us since we first rolled out one-to-one iPads for our pupils at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.   “Following this, our staff and children have been on a continual journey of discovery; supporting, enhancing, and extending their teaching and learning through technology. Our children are fully engaged in these learning opportunities and have really embraced the way that technology enables them to interact with, and understand, the wider world in a meaningful, impactful way.  “Our children engage with the technology with real enthusiasm, learning very sophisticated digital skills, and making good choices on how to use the technology to support their learning.” Transform Trust CEO Rebecca Meredith commented: “We are so proud of the way our staff and children have embraced technology to support their creative curriculum and extracurricular activities inside and outside of the classroom.  “Our digital trust lead and executive head teacher Phil Herd has been instrumental and innovative in building our knowledge across the trust. Pete, Jenny and the team at Parkdale have literally sparked magic at this school and you can see it in the children’s faces as they proudly share their digital know-how with their peers, teachers and visitors.  “We are delighted that they have all been recognised for their innovation and digital excellence. Digital progression is a trust-wide focus for us, and we are equally delighted to see how far all of our schools have come on their journeys of discovery.”  This accolade coincides with Transform Trust’s acceptance to become an Apple Regional Training Centre for 2023. This further highlights the Trust’s commitment to facilitating training for all staff to develop skills and build confidence to improve the way they use technology effectively at school and online.  Read more QA Education News

Teachers Believe Ebooks Benefit Primary Pupils’ Reading But Only A Third Have Access

ebooks benefit primary school pupils

A new report on the impact of eBooks on reading for pleasure has been published by the National Literacy Trust in association with Pearson, the world’s leading digital media learning company. The report, Using eBooks to support reading for pleasure in 2023 brings together responses from more than 500 primary educators, including classroom teachers, headteachers and SENCOs, and paints an illuminating picture of digital tools and their perceived impact on primary pupils today. Key findings from the report show that: The benefits of eBook use are far reaching, with more than three-quarters of teachers whose pupils’ access eBooks believing they can support opportunities for personalised learning (77%) and reading for pleasure (76%) in all children. 58% believe they enhance engagement in reading, over half (54%) say eBooks provide an opportunity to support different learning needs, and a quarter (26%) feel eBooks encourage greater family engagement with books and reading. Access to an eBook library is reported by over 80% of all respondents who used digital tools to provide a positive impact on children’s reading enjoyment (86%), choice (85%) and motivation (83%), with over three quarters reporting benefits to comprehension (76%) and independent reading (77%).   What’s more, teachers without access to eBook libraries reported a desire to access more high-quality books that are diverse and interactive, with on-screen features to offer adaptive, personalised learning. Building on existing research that stresses the importance of reading for pleasure in boosting literacy, wellbeing and long-term socioeconomic outcomes for children, the report also explored current barriers to the use of eBooks in primary schools, despite their many benefits. These include a general lack of staff training and professional development, as well as a lack of staff confidence around digital resources – this in spite of the widespread use of digital tools in the 2020-21 Covid-19 lockdowns. Speaking about the findings, Lindsay Nadin, Director of Primary at Pearson, said: “These are hugely important insights from the frontline of primary classrooms, and indicate a strong appetite from primary teachers for diverse, adaptive choices that bring all learners enjoyment through reading – and so vitally strengthen their literacy skills along the way. “There is much to love about current advances in the digital landscape – especially around how tools can deepen a passion for reading in schools – but the presence of a digital divide must not be overlooked. “Given national warnings that fewer children enjoy reading in their free time, extending access to eBooks outside school – with engaging options that can be accessed on mobile phones, tablets and other onscreen devices – could be a vital step in switching learners on to literacy. This is especially pertinent for the 1 in 10 children from lower-income backgrounds who do not have a book of their own at home.” Dr Christina Clark, Director of Research and Evaluation at The National Literacy Trust, said: “The percentage of children and young people who tell us that they enjoy reading, and read for pleasure daily, has been on a downward trend in recent years, with reading enjoyment at its lowest level in 15 years. It is therefore imperative that we explore every way possible to support children’s reading, and we hope that these new insights into teachers’ experiences and perceptions of using eBooks contribute to the evidence base around digital support for reading for pleasure at school and at home.” Pearson are committed to ensuring every child can develop a lifelong love of reading no matter their ability, background or identity. As part of this commitment, Pearson has created Bug Club Reading Corner. Reading Corner is an online reading-for-pleasure library for primary pupils, with over 100 beautiful books by a range of diverse authors and illustrators. Children can choose books to read according to their interests. Books in Reading Corner are mobile-friendly and Reception and KS1 books offer Read-To-Me audio options, enabling even more children to access exciting stories at school, at home and elsewhere. You can try Reading Corner free for 30 days as part of Pearson’s all- new Bug Club eBook Library: pearsonprimary.co.uk/ReadingCorner With a subscription to Pearson’s Bug Club eBook Library, educators looking for support around reading for pleasure can also access professional development created in partnership with Professor Teresa Cremin and her team at The Open University. There are six online modules covering a range of teaching topics, including building communities of readers. Lindsay continued: “As we continue to seek the views of teachers, parents and pupils, we are committed to ensuring the next chapter is collaborative, so that every child can be part of the story.” For further information, visit go.pearson.com/nlt Click here to read more QA Education news

Young Tree Champions: Apply now for free trees, tech and support at your school

The Tree Council Young Tree Champions

UK schools can now apply for The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champions (YTC) programme, with free trees and hedgerows, inspirational resources, and lots of support available to develop green spaces – and grant children opportunities to feel connected to nature. Since 2020, The Tree Council’s flagship education programme has worked with more than 400 school and youth groups, planted nearly 12,000 trees and hedgerow whips at close to 300 schools, and engaged almost 120,000 UK pupils in total. The programme speaks to four of the key 21st century challenges faced by schools and school pupils: nature-poor grounds; rising eco-anxiety; a knowledge and skills gap around tree health and horticulture; and limited opportunities to influence positive change, particularly in areas of high deprivation. Richard Pollard is Head of The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme. He said: “It’s so important that young people have opportunities to plant and care for trees, to feel like they are able to make a positive contribution to their environment, and to find the courage to speak up for what matters to them.” Young Tree Champions has a number of entry points, depending on requirements and available resources.  Schools new to the scheme can begin by applying for a Tree Starter Pack, delivering five free trees – including fruit trees – and/or a pack of 60 hedgerow whips, and supported by free, online training around planning, planting and aftercare, alongside access to free teaching resources, and our free, online Schools Hub. The next step up is to apply for a Trees and More Project Pack. Successful schools will receive free trees, technology – such as a microscope camera – and ongoing support to deliver a minimum of four tree-related activities over the year, including tree planting. Young Tree Champion Schools can then seek to achieve Beacon status through the completion of a YTC project, and a subsequent self-assessment that demonstrates the impact of their work and confirms their continuing commitment to trees and nature. Beacon Schools gain access to a Tree Council regional leader; more trees, hedgerow whips and technology; free trips and experiences – and the opportunity to contribute to the touring Force for Nature exhibition. They are also able to influence the wider YTC programme, through the National Forum, and host and lead training events. In total, 15 new Beacon Schools were announced in 2023, located right across the country, from Stirling to Kent, with three schools achieving Outstanding Beacon School Status. Emma Sweeney, at Rolph Church of England Primary School in Clacton-on-Sea, said: “Children and staff are very proud to be an Outstanding Beacon School. “Being part of the Young Tree Champions has enabled our staff, pupils and their families to connect with nature – all children in our school benefit from regular timetabled outdoor learning and forest school sessions.” To find out more about The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champions programme, and to apply for your free trees and tailored support, please visit https://youngtreechampions.org/. The closing date for applications is November 12 2023. Read more QA Education news

Young pupils recovering from Covid learning gap

The Covid learning gap is starting to narrow. Female teacher is teaching shapes to her primary school students. She is asking hem a question and some of the students have their hand in the air to answer.

New research suggests the Covid learning gap suffered by young pupils as a result of the pandemic is starting to narrow. The difference between reading and maths scores of Year 3 and 4 pupils in the 2022/23 academic year compared to those before Covid is smaller than it was. But the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains wide.   The findings are the latest in a series of reports conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) tracking the longer-term impact of the pandemic on younger pupils’ reading and maths skills.  Published and funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the research has followed over 6,000 pupils who were in Reception and Year 1 (four- to six-year-olds) in March 2020, with the most recent assessment taking place in the spring term of 2023 with the same pupils, now in Years 3 and 4.  The study tracks the estimated Covid-19 gap and disadvantage gap over time to gain an understanding of pupils’ attainment relative to where they might expect to be had the pandemic not occurred. Dr Ben Styles, Head of Classroom Practice and Workforce at NFER said: “It is encouraging that three years on from the first school closures, there are real signs of improvement in both the reading and maths performance of Year 3 and Year 4 pupils. Schools have been working tirelessly following the pandemic to put strategies in place to support pupils’ learning recovery.  “Our evidence suggests there should be a greater focus on very low attaining pupils and closing the disadvantage gap. It is essential that schools are both adequately funded and supported to do so using evidence-based approaches. This will be required over the long term.” Covid-19 gap closed for pupils on average in both reading and maths  The new data shows that in spring 2023 there was no significant difference in Year 3 pupils’ reading and Year 4 pupils’ maths performance, compared to the pre-pandemic pupil samples.  For reading and maths, in both Years 3 and 4, the Covid gap significantly reduced compared with spring 2021 and spring 2022.  However, the analysis did show a notable proportion of very low attaining pupils in Year 3 reading, larger than seen before the pandemic (4.9 per cent compared with 2.5 per cent). Disadvantage gap is shrinking, but it remains wider than before the pandemic Year 3 and 4 pupils eligible for free school meals were each estimated to be around seven months behind their more well-off peers for reading in spring 2023. These gaps have not decreased since spring 2021 and remain wider than gaps reported before the pandemic.  Meanwhile, the disadvantage gaps for maths in spring 2023 for each of Year 3 and Year 4 were estimated to be around six months – significantly reduced since spring 2021 but wider than gaps reported before the pandemic. Schools report support for pupils’ wellbeing is still a priority, particularly for disadvantaged pupils The research shows that schools have continued with a number of strategies developed during the pandemic, including increased wellbeing support, and provision for home learning which most schools felt they were able to support well. Schools who reported disruption to learning gave the most common reason as being related to pupils’ behaviour and wellbeing, a much more commonly reported challenge than in previous years of the study. The research also explored pupils’ social skills, behaviour and wellbeing. It found the social maturity of pupils in 2022/23 was not significantly different to that seen in 2021/22. However, disadvantaged pupils were assessed as having significantly lower social skills than non-disadvantaged pupils. Three quarters of schools reported that they were prioritising learning recovery support for their disadvantaged pupils, but schools were concerned about the level of funding to support pupils who had missed learning. To read more QA Education news click here