Skip to main content

Education in the media: 10 June 2016

Two girls in uniform

Today’s news review looks at Sir Michael Wilshaw’s latest commentary on the most able pupils, the publication of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on training new teachers, and the Isle of Wight Council’s appeal against the recent term time holiday ruling.

Most able pupils

Today Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, published his latest monthly commentary which looks at how well our brightest pupils are supported and challenged to achieve high academic results. Sir Michael suggests that thousands of the brightest secondary school pupils are being let down by a lack of ambition among some teachers who are failing to stimulate the progress of their pupils.

The Telegraph and BBC cover the story focusing on Wilshaw’s comments on children from disadvantaged backgrounds being susceptible to underachievement, while the Guardian leads with his call for national tests for 14-year-olds (Key Stage 3) to be reinstated.

The FT links Sir Michael’s comments to social mobility, suggesting middle class parents are increasingly ‘hothousing’ their children with activities, like taking them to the theatre or visiting museums, to keep them ahead of the pack, which counters the improvements schools have made in narrowing the attainment gap.

From next year we are introducing Key Stage 2 resits for those pupils who don’t pass their tests, and light-touch times tables checks at the end of primary school to ensure all children master the basics. Additionally, our new progress-based accountability system will reward schools for developing all their pupils – not just those on the C/D grade boundary.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Our reforms are raising standards for all children with 1.4 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. And like Sir Michael Wilshaw, we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure the most able children fulfil their vast potential.


That is why we are introducing new world-class GCSEs that will stretch the brightest pupils. Alongside this, academies and innovative free schools, such as the King’s Maths School, which offers young mathematicians and scientists the opportunity to study alongside leading academic experts, are giving every child the opportunity to fulfil their potential.


However we are not complacent, and that is why our recent White Paper goes even further by committing to investigating and funding approaches to help even more bright children fulfil their vast potential.

Term time holiday appeal  

Yesterday, 9 June, the Isle of Wight Council announced it would be appealing against the recent High Court ruling on term time holidays, and that the Department would be supporting the legal challenge.

The Guardian, The Telegraph and  BBC online have all covered the story. Critics have argued that the High Court's decision meant there would be confusion around the rules on taking children out of English schools during term time. It is reported that headteachers have been told they should continue applying the current rules on term time holiday absences, after Schools Minister Nick Gibb sent a letter to all schools and local authorities to clarify the Department’s position.

To put this in context, an attendance record of 90 per cent over the course of an academic year is equivalent to 19 days – almost a month - missed from school. Over the course of a child’s school career that amounts to a whole year of their education being lost.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Children’s attendance in school is non-negotiable.  The evidence is clear that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chance of gaining good GCSEs which has a lasting effect on their life chances. Unauthorised absence during term time doesn’t just have an impact on the child’s education, but also on teachers and other children.


The recent High Court judgment has created uncertainty for parents, schools and local authorities. It is essential that the ruling is clarified, so we are supporting the Isle of Wight Council’s appeal.

Teacher training

Today the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published its report on training new teachers, which is critical of the government’s work on teacher recruitment.

There is limited coverage in the Sun, the Times and the ‘i’ today.  The BBC reports on the findings which claim that the government has no plans to meet the growing teacher shortages in England, whilst Schools Week focuses on the PAC’s comments about the Department’s lack of “leadership or urgency” in dealing with teacher supply issues.

We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds to attract the best graduates into teaching and also backing innovative schemes like Teach First and the National Teaching Service to help get great teachers in to schools where they are most needed.

Additionally, the number and quality of teachers has never been higher and the number of teachers returning to the classroom is also rising year on year. Over 1,000 more graduates are training to teach than a year ago, with record levels holding a first class degree. With three months still to go we have recruited in excess of our postgraduate targets in primary and in several secondary subjects.

Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of our teachers and schools leaders, the quality of education in this country has been transformed, resulting in 1.4 million more pupils being taught in good and outstanding schools than in 2010.

We will consider the Committee’s recommendations and respond in due course.

In response Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

We simply do not recognise this picture of teacher training and are disappointed that this report fails to recognise the significant work already done, and the vision set out in the White Paper, to increase the number of people entering the classroom.


We know there are some local challenges, the truth is despite rising pupil numbers and the competitive jobs market a stronger economy has created, more people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it, there are 13,100 more teachers today than when we came to office and the ratio of teachers to pupils is stable with more teachers also choosing to come back to the classroom.


All of this is thanks to an aggressive and concerted approach to teacher recruitment including high profile media campaigns, new routes into teaching and generous bursaries.

Shortage subjects

The TES reports today on claims that an inquiry by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) into whether teachers should be retained on the UK shortage occupation list is likely to result in teachers in subjects like maths and physics being removed from it. The TES claims this could result in the loss of thousands of teachers.

The MAC launched a call for evidence this week seeking views from a range of interested parties. The Department will be playing a full part in the inquiry and we will submit our evidence to the MAC in due course.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We are currently considering our response to the Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence.


We want all schools to be able to recruit the teachers they need but we recognise there are challenges in some subjects – that’s why we are investing over £1.3 billion up to 2020 to attract new teachers into the profession, including generous bursaries in key subjects.


We are also creating a simple web tool to enable schools to advertise vacancies for free, and a new national teacher vacancy website so that aspiring and current teachers can find posts quickly and easily – enabling the market to work better and reduce the burden on schools. We are also backing schemes like the National Teaching Service and Teach First to get great teacher where they are need most.

Find out how to become a teacher and see more about our recruitment campaign here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page