As avid consumers of all things education we regularly keep up to speed what’s going on in the press. Here we’ve identified four themes that have been cropping up regularly this year showing what’s high on school and government agendas, including sex education, mental health, social mobility and new teaching techniques. These tiny snippets are just the tip of the iceberg, click the links to learn more!
Sex and Relationship Education gets a make over
After much anticipation from MPs and campaigners, Justine Greening has announced that Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) will be made statutory for schools by 2019. The last time the SRE curriculum was updated was 17 years ago and under the current system it’s only compulsory in local authority maintained schools. This lack of education has led the government and the NHS to view young people as ‘a ticking sexual health time bomb.’ A survey by Plan International shows the complexity and sensitivity needed to teach SRE in today’s world, with over 75% agreeing that students should learn about the impact of pornography, online safety, sexual consent, sexting and abusive relationships.
Mental health in the education sector
Over the last year, there have been many shocking statistics about mental health in education. Just today, the Metro reported a mental health epidemic in universities as suicide amongst students hits record levels. According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, 75% of mental illnesses begin before the age of 18, and yet there are few provisions in place to address them. The government has promised ‘mental health first aid training’ for every school in the UK. And yet, when one contemplates the impending cuts to school budgets, it is unclear where the funding for this training will come from. Particularly, if one considers the TES exclusive that shows that 31% of secondary schools are already rolling back their mental health services. It’s not just the students who are suffering, nearly half of teachers report that their mental well-being is 'poor' or ‘very poor.’
Every week there’s a new article about social mobility, looking at the plethora of ways poverty impacts education. In a recent report, the Social Mobility Commission argues that the secondary school system ‘does not work for low income pupils, and that urgent action is needed.’ According to TES, children who excelled in primary are over taken by wealthier students in secondary school further ‘widening the academic gap’ . This disparity is continued into further education choices, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are four times less likely to apply to university. However, DfE has ‘announced 12 Opportunity Areas across England, backed with £72m investment, where we are working to break down the barriers to social mobility that too many still face.’ In the coming years it will interesting to see whether initiatives like this will help solve this growing problem.
Unusual teaching techniques
No shoes inside the classroom, pygmy goats on the outside: it seems that teachers are trying more holistic methods to tackle problem behaviour. Research shows that students who do not wear shoes during class are noticeably calmer and in Scandinavia, where the method was developed, teachers go shoeless too! A secondary school in Brighton is using goats to manage pupil behaviour and boost engagement. “Goat time” has become a popular de-escalation tactic when students display challenging behaviour.
At a glance many of these stories could be seen to follow a depressing trend. However, the fact that these conversations are being had and are being brought to the attention of the government must be seen as a positive. The education sector learns and grows every year along with students, and teachers across the country are seeking to revolutionise the process (even without shoes).