Education News Roundup

Learning assistants are rapped for grammatical inaccuracies and using their local dialect in Havant; there’s news of a possible mass transformation of secondary schools in Surrey to academy status; and preparation for university life takes place in log cabins in Staffordshire… join us for our occasional skim-read through the press, to see what’s what in the world of education.

A consultant is apparently to be drafted in by a headteacher at a school in Havant to help two learning assistants “brush up on the way they speak” after the school was served with a “notice to improve”.

‘Grammatical inaccuracy’ in Hampshire

The Daily Telegraph reported that the assistants were singled out by inspectors, not just for their heavy Portsmouth accents, but also for their grammatical inaccuracy, which was apparently setting a bad example to pupils.

The head told the Telegraph that the move wasn’t denigrating the Pompey accent or dialect: “We are all proud of where we come from,” he said. “I accept however that bad grammar is not acceptable in the classroom which is why we have taken the inspectors’ criticisms constructively.” 

‘Ambitious thinking’ in Surrey

Meanwhile, just over the border in Surrey, there were media reports on a plan being hatched for all of the Conservative-controlled county council’s 53 secondary schools to become academies. The Department for Education reportedly welcomed this “ambitious thinking”.

Academies are directly funded schools outside of local authority control, and schools judged ‘outstanding’ are being encouraged to change to academy status. Education Secretary Michael Gove, who represents the Surrey Heath constituency (and who therefore wouldn’t have a say on this proposal), has been criticised by his political opponents for the paltry number of schools that have so far announced a desire to transform into academies.

The council’s strategic director for children, young people and families told the Surrey Mirror that one reason for the move is a concern that: “should a substantial number of schools become academies, the viability of some of the support services we provide to schools and their pupils may be compromised.”

The Daily Telegraph suggested that the move “represents the most enthusiastic endorsement of the Coalition’s plans to expand the number of academy schools, despite warnings from unions that academies could fracture the system of state education in England.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of National Union of Teachers, told Telegraph readers: “Given the decided lack of interest in the government’s academies proposals so far, I see no reason why Surrey schools would wish to go headlong down this route.”

‘Nowhere to hide’ in Staffordshire

And finally in this roundup, The Independent reported on a Staffordshire private school’s attempts to encourage a sense of independence in its sixth-form pupils before they head off to university, by installing groups of six in log cabins around the grounds of its 140-acre country estate.

As well as learning how to live with other people, students also acquire essential skills that aren’t part of the day-to-day curriculum, from how to boil an egg to how to operate a can opener or washing machine.

“Pupils learn how to get along with others and how to handle their idiosyncrasies,” Abbotsholme headmaster Steve Fairclough told the Indie, adding: “Life’s not always easy in the cabins. There’s nowhere to hide. They do fall out when the washing up isn’t done or when people haven’t cleared up after cooking. But each cabin finds its way of doing things.”

* Do some school staff need lessons in the Queen’s English? Should all of Surrey’s secondary schools transform themselves into academies? And do six form pupils need to learn life skills beyond the curriculum? Over to you…

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