Spectator Schools - Features

School Report: a round-up of recent stories from the front line in education

Including: London’s new Chinese school; spending cut in state sector; no-frills private school for a quarter the price

18 March 2017

9:00 AM

18 March 2017

9:00 AM

CHINESE SCHOOL IS A FIRST IN EUROPE

 
Europe’s first bilingual English-Chinese school is due to open in London this September. Professor Hugo de Burgh, a leading authority on China, will be the chairman of Kensington Wade School and has been instrumental in its founding.

He says the benefits for pupils will be numerous. Yes, it’s likely that China is the future for international business. But he also believes that learning the Chinese language is of huge benefit to children — both for the general benefits of being bilingual, but also because learning a logographic language — as well as an alphabetic one — expands their mental horizons. Finally, de Burgh believes that British education has plenty to learn from the Chinese system.

The private prep school’s home will be a brand-new state-of-the-art building on Kensington High Street with a rooftop playground. Everyone is very proud of its 685 square-metre sports hall. In September pupils will be accepted into Nursery, Reception and Year 1 classes. Joanna Wallace, formerly head of Putney High Junior School, will be the headteacher.

BIG CUT IN FUNDING FOR STATE EDUCATION

 
Spending per pupil in state schools is to be cut for the first time since the 1990s, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

By 2019–20 a new funding formula will have reduced the amount by 6.5 per cent, with major consequences throughout the education system, whose funding has been protected for the past 20 years.


The Department for Education asserts, however, that ‘school funding is now at its highest level on record’.

DRIVING A COMPUTER WON’T WIN YOU POINTS

 
The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) has become a controversial topic, with claims that schools have been using the qualification (which involves learning IT skills, not how to drive motor vehicles) to ‘game’ the exam league tables.

It had counted for the same number of points in secondary school performance measures as one GCSE — even though critics claim it is much easier to achieve. As a result, the number of ECDL passes awarded surged by 123 per cent last year.

The Department for Education has now dropped the exam from its performance tables. But this hasn’t pleased everyone, and other critics complain that the removal of a computing qualification that teaches coding and other digital skills is a backwards step.

ROLE-MODELS PLAN TO BOOST SCIENCE FOR GIRLS

 
London’s Deputy Mayor Joanne McCartney, who wants to get more girls studying Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) at A-level, believes careers advice at primary school could be the way forward. The Mayor’s Annual Education Report 2017 showed that although girls perform better than boys in all Stem subjects at GCSE, they are far more likely to drop them at A-level.

The solution, suggests McCartney, who is responsible for education and childcare in London, could be to introduce younger children to female role-models such as scientists and engineers. An unconscious bias could be making girls think that sciences are ‘not for them — but clearly, the results show that they are’, she says.

NO-FRILLS SCHOOL AT A QUARTER THE PRICE

 
A new ‘cut-price’ private school, charging under £3,000 a year (or £52 a week) is on course to open in Durham this September. That’s a major saving, because average school fees in the UK are currently £13,566 for day pupils.

The man behind the Independent Grammar School: Durham is Professor James Tooley, who has invested in similar projects in the developing world but never before in the UK.

The school will offer what he calls ‘the basics’: high academic standards, a strong grounding in mathematics, phonics and languages and ‘a Christian ethos’. What it won’t offer are rugby pitches and Olympic-size swimming pools.

If all goes well, Tooley has plans to roll out similar schools — none of which will require entrance exams for pupils — across the north of England.

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