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Education in the media: 7 November 2017

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Today’s news review looks at Justine Greening’s visit to her former secondary school, class sizes and PE.

Oakwood High School

On Thursday, 26 October, Justine Greening visited her former secondary school, Oakwood High School in Rotherham, to open its new facilities and talk to pupils about how her education inspired her.

The Yorkshire Post covered the visit and ran an interview with the Secretary of State. The article notes Justine Greening was “honest and uplifting” and notes that she said she will not be satisfied until she has succeeded in seeing equality of opportunity for all. She also told pupils not to be afraid to be “a bit sharp-elbowed” if they want to pursue new horizons and opportunities.

The Secretary of State told pupils about her favourite teacher, French teacher Mr Tranter, and how he inspired her. She spoke about how the careers advice she got at the school led her to study economics. She also talked about her life growing up in Rotherham and more.

Class sizes

On Sunday, 5 November, the Sunday Times published the findings of an FOI looking at class size.

The article said that there were three occasions where pupils had been taught in classes of more than 100 pupils – but failed to point out that there were good reasons for this. The classes in question were choirs and PE lessons where it is not uncommon for several smaller classes to come together in order to make for more effective lessons.

While infant classes must have 30 or fewer pupils there is no statutory limit on secondary class sizes. This is because schools and local authorities are best placed to decide on class sizes that are consistent with raising attainment and which help pupils to achieve their potential.

Average secondary class sizes have been below an average of 21 pupils per class since 2008, and were 20.8 in 2017.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We have spoken to the three schools with the largest class sizes. These figures relate to PE lessons and choir practice where it is not uncommon for classes to be taught together. The schools’ pupil-to-teacher ratios remain well below the national average. We also expect this is the case for many of the other schools reporting larger classes in this data.

We have invested £5.8bn in the school estate, creating 735,000 places since 2010, and despite rising pupil numbers, the average class size has not changed. In fact, less than 1% of primary school pupils are taught in classes of 36 or more, less than in 2010.

Girls doing PE

On Tuesday, 7 November, the organisations Youth Sport Trust and Women in Sport published a survey looking at attitudes to physical activity among secondary school children. It says there is a 15 per cent gap between the number of boys (71 per cent) and girls (56 per cent) who are happy with the amount of physical activity they undertake.

The department is happy that over a majority of children surveyed indicated they were happy with the amount of physical activity they did, we recognise that more needs to be done to make sure all children are happy with the amount they are doing.

This is why the government continues to work to promote women’s sport. Sport England funds a number of programmes to encourage girls and women to get physically active, including ‘This Girl Can’ and ‘Girls Active’. 49 per cent of women aged 14 to 40 who have seen the campaign reported they had taken action as a result.

A Department for Education Spokesperson said:

“We want to encourage all young people to get into the healthy habit of playing and enjoying sport – both inside and outside school.

“We know that many schools are using their primary PE and School Sport Premium funding to target groups who may traditionally be less active, with 31% of schools reporting that they used their funding to target girls.

“Across Government we continue to work to promote women’s sport. Sport England funds a number of programmes to encourage girls and women to get physically active, including ‘This Girl Can’ and ‘Girls Active’.”

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