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See how your primary school is doing

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Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in England are dropping further behind their classmates in national primary school tests, statistics show.

The gap between SEN pupils and their peers has risen from 48 percentage points in 2016 to 52 this year.

The figures are revealed in school league tables, published by the Department for Education (DfE), showing the results of about 16,000 primaries.

Head teachers say special-needs education funding is in crisis.

English primary school tables

Department for Education website

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The government statistics show 18% of children with SEN reached the expected level in reading, writing and mathematics, compared with 70% of their peers without special needs.

Although SEN pupils’ results edged upwards on last year, when 14% made the grade, their non-SEN peers boosted their results more dramatically from 62% to 70%.

Teachers have been warning that pupils with special needs, such as mild autism or dyslexia, would struggle in the tougher tests introduced last year.

A National Association of Head Teachers’ spokesman said it was “one of those situations where money is the solution and schools need the government’s help”.

The tables also showed disadvantaged pupils still perform far worse than all other pupils in England, with around half passing the tests, compared to nearly two-thirds of non-disadvantaged.

The gap between the two groups of pupils is now as wide as it was in 2012 at about 20 percentage points.

However, there does appear to be a small catch-up (one percentage point) in poorer pupils’ attainment on 2016 when the tougher tests were introduced and results for all pupils dipped significantly.

‘Phonics’

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “This data is a useful indication of school performance but it is not the whole story. One thing it does do, though, is confirm what NAHT has been saying for a long time about social mobility.

“Raising the Key Stage 2 standard (Sats test) was not going to help close the gap. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve.”

But Schools Minister Nick Gibb hailed the achievements of pupils and teachers, saying they had responded well to the more rigorous curriculum.

This set of pupils was the first to benefit from the government’s new approach to phonics, he said.

“Pupils are now leaving primary school better prepared for the rigours of secondary school and for future success in their education,” Mr Gibb added.

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Overall, pupils have scored better in their Sats results than last year, which was the first year of the new tests.

The DfE said this was partly because of “increased familiarity” with the new tests.

There was a nine percentage point increase in the proportion of black pupils passing the tests, to 60% – just one percentage point behind the national average and white pupils.

The top five local authorities were all London boroughs, with Richmond upon Thames at the top, Kensington and Chelsea coming second and Bromley third.

The inner city boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Hackney have claimed the fourth and fifth spots.

In 1999, Hackney, which had been one of the worst performing boroughs, became the first local education authority to be taken out of council control.

In this year’s tests across England, local authority schools slightly outperformed academies and free schools, with 62% of their schools reaching the expected standard compared with 61% of academies and free schools.

In all, 511 schools – 4% of the total – have fallen beneath the government’s expectations or “floor standard”, where fewer than 65% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics and the school did not achieve sufficient progress scores in all three subjects.

This is an improvement on last year, where 665 – 5% – primaries were found wanting.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42353456

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What is new about this year’s A-levels? – BBC News

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Thousands of teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their A-and AS-level results. But, in England, there have been changes to this year’s A-level qualifications – the BBC News website sets out the changes.


What is different about this year’s A-levels in England?

Under the new system, students sit all A-level exams at the end of two years of study, instead of taking modular exams throughout the course.

AS-level results no longer count towards A-level grades. No subject will have more than a 20% coursework component and most courses will be assessed entirely through exams.

Resits will still be available, but January exams will be scrapped, so students will have to wait until May/June of the following year for a chance to improve their grades.


Why was this change brought in?

The change was brought in by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove with the intention of making the exams more “fit for purpose” – or harder.

The new AS- and A-levels syllabuses have been phased in across schools in England from September 2015.

The DfE says: “The content for the new A-levels has been reviewed and updated. Universities played a greater role in this for the new qualifications than they did previously.”


What is happening to AS-levels?

The AS-level is being decoupled from the A-level, which means it operates as a stand-alone qualification and the results do not count towards A-level grades – although in Wales and Northern Ireland, they will still count towards an overall A-level mark.

Provisional figures from the Department for Education show that the number of entries for AS subjects has fallen by 42% this summer.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton said it “sounded the death knell for AS-levels”.

“The great benefit of the old system was that it gave students a broader range of knowledge and allowed them to keep their options open for longer,” he said.

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“The decision to decouple these qualifications was an entirely unnecessary reform, which is narrowing the curriculum and reducing student choice.”


Which subjects are being phased in when?

This year, new A-level qualifications were taken in:

  • art and design
  • biology
  • business
  • chemistry
  • computer science
  • economics
  • English language
  • English language and literature
  • English literature
  • history
  • physics
  • psychology
  • sociology

Next summer, candidates will sit the new A-level qualifications in the following subjects:

ancient languages (classical Greek, Latin)

  • dance
  • drama and theatre
  • geography
  • modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish)
  • music
  • physical education
  • religious studies

In the summer of 2019, new exams will be sat in:

  • accounting
  • ancient history
  • ancient languages (biblical Hebrew A-level only)
  • classical civilisation
  • design and technology
  • electronics
  • environmental science
  • film studies
  • further mathematics
  • geology
  • government and politics
  • history of art (A-level only)
  • law
  • mathematics
  • media studies
  • modern foreign languages (Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Greek, Japanese, modern Hebrew, Panjabi, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Turkish, Urdu)
  • modern foreign languages (Chinese, Italian, Russian)
  • music technology
  • philosophy
  • statistics

Hasn’t all this change been stressful for the teenagers involved?

Young people and teachers have told the BBC that preparing for the new qualification has been stressful, especially as there were no past papers to refer to and some text books were written before some of the syllabuses were finalised.

Rosamund McNeil, from the National Union of Teachers, said: “The upheaval of a hastily reformed curriculum and the changes leading to a reduction in much of the coursework elements, created unnecessary stress and concern for pupils and teachers alike.

“While results nationally may have remained in line with those in the previous year, some schools and colleges will no doubt see considerable variation.

“The volatility around results and the accountability measures which use them can have damaging and unfair consequences.”


What is happening elsewhere in the UK?

There have been no major changes in the other nations.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, AS-levels have remained as an integral part of studying for A-levels.

AS-levels contribute 40% of the total marks of the full A-level and can be taken at the end of the AS course or alongside A2.

In Scotland, students do not sit A-levels and AS-levels. Instead, they take Highers and Advanced Highers.

This year, the Higher pass rate dipped by 0.2%, but the total number of passes remained above 150,000 for a third successive year.


Reporting by BBC News education reporter Katherine Sellgren

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Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

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UK schoolboy corrects Nasa data error – BBC News

Media captionMiles Soloman tells Radio 4’s World At One how he discovered something the Nasa experts missed

A British teenager has contacted scientists at Nasa to point out an error in a set of their own data.

A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data.

The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was “pretty cool” to email the space agency.

The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Miles told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was being recorded.

But you cannot get negative energy. So Miles and Mr O’Neill contacted Nasa.

“It’s pretty cool”, Miles said. “You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they’re looking at the graphs that I’ve made.”

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including the Nasa experts.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year.

Miles had found it was actually happening multiple times a day.

Image copyright NASA

Prof Larry Pinksy, from the University of Houston, told Radio 4: “My colleagues at Nasa thought they had cleaned that up.

“This underscores – I think – one of the values of the IRIS projects in all fields with big data. I’m sure there are interesting things the students can find that professionals don’t have time to do.”

The professor – who works with Nasa on radiation monitors – said the correction was “appreciated more so than it being embarrassing”.

What do Miles’ friends think of his discovery?

“They obviously think I’m a nerd,” the sixth-former said. “It’s really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details.”

He added: “I’m not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them.”

The director of IRIS, Prof Becky Parker, said this sort of “expansion of real science in the classroom” could attract more young people to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

She added: “IRIS brings real scientific research into the hands of students no matter their background or the context of the school. The experience inspires them to become the next generation of scientists.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39351833

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

Technorati Tags: , , ,

UK schoolboy corrects Nasa data error – BBC News

Media captionMiles Soloman tells Radio 4’s World At One how he discovered something the Nasa experts missed

A British teenager has contacted scientists at Nasa to point out an error in a set of their own data.

A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data.

The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was “pretty cool” to email the space agency.

The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Miles told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was being recorded.

But you cannot get negative energy. So Miles and Mr O’Neill contacted Nasa.

“It’s pretty cool”, Miles said. “You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they’re looking at the graphs that I’ve made.”

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including the Nasa experts.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year.

Miles had found it was actually happening multiple times a day.

Image copyright NASA

Prof Larry Pinksy, from the University of Houston, told Radio 4: “My colleagues at Nasa thought they had cleaned that up.

“This underscores – I think – one of the values of the IRIS projects in all fields with big data. I’m sure there are interesting things the students can find that professionals don’t have time to do.”

The professor – who works with Nasa on radiation monitors – said the correction was “appreciated more so than it being embarrassing”.

What do Miles’ friends think of his discovery?

“They obviously think I’m a nerd,” the sixth-former said. “It’s really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details.”

He added: “I’m not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them.”

The director of IRIS, Prof Becky Parker, said this sort of “expansion of real science in the classroom” could attract more young people to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

She added: “IRIS brings real scientific research into the hands of students no matter their background or the context of the school. The experience inspires them to become the next generation of scientists.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39351833

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Grammars ‘will not boost poorest pupils’ science grades’ – BBC News

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption There is no evidence that grammars will boost overall standards in the sciences, says the Royal Society

Top scientists fear plans for more grammar schools in England will not boost disadvantaged pupils’ grades.

Overall, the poorest pupils do worse in science and maths subjects in areas with selective schools, suggests research for the Royal Society, the UK’s independent scientific academy.

New grammars are likely to help “only a small proportion” of the poorest pupils, it says.

Ministers maintain that their proposals will improve social mobility.

A government consultation on plans for more selective education closed earlier this month.

“Social mobility is a complex issue,” said Prof Tom McLeish, chairman of the Royal Society’s Education Committee.

“We support the government’s commitment to ensuring all students fulfil their potential, regardless of their background.

“However, we are concerned that the approach to selective education outlined in the green paper may only support the small number of high ability disadvantaged pupils who do attend selective schools, at the cost of disadvantaged pupils who do not.”

Image caption Disadvantaged pupils in areas where there were selective schools do less well overall in GCSE maths, research suggests

Researchers from the Education Policy Institute, commissioned by the Royal Society, looked at the impact of selective education on the attainment of the most disadvantaged young people – those on free school meals – in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The researchers found free school meals pupils performed less well in GCSE maths in areas where there were selective schools.

In non-selective areas in 2015, 48.1% of free school meals pupils got a C or more, compared with 72.3% of pupils not eligible for the meals.

But in selective areas the attainment gap was wider, with only 43.9% of free school meals pupils getting at least a C, compared with 74.8% of pupils not receiving the meals.

The researchers found that free school meals pupils in selective schools performed very well, with 98% getting at least a C, compared with 99.2% of non-free school meals pupils.

However, free school meals pupils make up only 3% of selective schools so their achievements are not enough to make any difference to “an overall negative impact on the attainment of all free school meals pupils in GCSE mathematics in selective areas”, say the researchers.

Specialist teachers

They also found that fewer free school meals pupils in selective areas took double or triple sciences at GCSE.

“We have found no evidence to suggest that overall educational standards for free school meals pupils in STEM subjects in England would be improved by an increase in the number of places in selective schools,” the Royal Society concludes.

Dr McLeish added that the best way to help every pupil achieve their potential is to make sure that they are taught by “well-trained, motivated and supported, specialist science teachers”.

Support is essential, he said, to help teachers “draw out the natural curiosity and creativity that grows from a framework of knowledge in science”.

In particular, the Royal Society proposes partnerships between universities, schools and businesses which could involve university staff teaching part-time and even carrying out some of their research in schools.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38343307

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