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We need tackle loneliness in our schools

One of my lasting memories of my younger school life is standing in the corner of the playground during breaktimes, with my back to all the other children, staring out towards the empty field. I was alone and I felt lonely. I have no idea why I did it. Perhaps someone had been unkind to me. Perhaps I felt sad about things going on at home. Nor do I have any idea how long it went on for.
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COMMENTS  |  DECEMBER 2018


Kindness in teachers

Kindness is the single most important quality that students want in their teacher, according to a survey by TES. Only nine per cent thought being knowledgeable was important. ‘Kindness’, ‘compassion’, ‘understanding’, ‘caring’ and ‘not being shouty’ are words and phrases that we hear time and again from students at the schools we visit when we ask them about the virtues their favourite teachers. ‘Anyone can swot up on a subject and know everything about it – a good teacher has to have so much more,’ one student recently summed up.
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COMMENTS  |  DECEMBER 2018


SEN Support within mainstream schools

It comes as no surprise to us to learn from a survey that three-quarters of special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCos) say they do not have enough time to cater for the needs of children on SEN Support within mainstream schools. More shocking is that nearly 60 per cent said they didn’t have time to ensure provision was in place for pupils with more severe needs who have Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). This is a failure of statutory duty, since EHCP holders – unlike those on SEN Support - have a legal entitlement to the level of support specified in their Plan.
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COMMENTS  |  DECEMBER 2018


Changes to school sex ed must go further

Sex Ed
Sex ed is back in the news again. The latest criticism is that not enough children in primary schools are being taught what it means to be lesbian, gay and bisexual. In response to the DfE’s consultation on relationships and sex education, which closed earlier this month, the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health has called on the government to make a ‘clear statement’ that teaching about healthy relationships must include discussions around LGBT+ people and relationships.
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COMMENTS  |  NOVEMBER 2018


Three-year-olds being tutored? Yes, really – and it needs to stop

Tutoring three year olds
Children as young as three are being taught by private tutors at a cost of £40 an hour or more. In a fight to get them into top schools – or because they don’t trust schools to teach core subjects well later on - parents are paying these tutors large sums to give these tiny tots formal lessons, usually in English and maths, sometimes on a daily basis.
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COMMENTS  |  NOVEMBER 2018


Schools and social media

Social media
Like it or loathe it, social media is becoming a growing part of school life. And no, we’re not talking about pupils grabbing time between lessons to check their Snapchat or Instagram. We mean schools themselves using social media channels to improve everything from their teaching methods
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COMMENTS  |  NOVEMBER 2018


FE demonstration

Further education
College makes history by shutting its doors to march against FE funding cuts today – is it a sign of things to come? Today, for the first time ever, a college principal has closed his college to allow staff and students to march against the government funding cuts to the further education (FE) sector.
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Ofsted and exam results

Ofsted
Ofsted to ditch exam results as criteria for success. But why wait another year? And can Ofsted make other changes while they’re at it, please? Ofsted are, at long last, going to ditch using exam results as a mark of a successful school. School inspectors have finally woken up to the fact that their current obsession with test scores have reduced teachers to the status of ‘data managers,’ which has in turn had a detrimental effect on pupils.
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Why music education matters

Why music matters
A primary school in a deprived part of Bradford has been completely transformed and it’s all thanks to music being prioritised in the school week. No wonder the story was picked up by some of the national press. But with music proven to boost children’s intellectual, linguistic and emotional development, why aren’t more (or all) schools putting it in the spotlight?
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Parents support headteachers' protest last week

Headteachers protest
It’s not often that parents would support the idea of headteachers taking to the streets in an act of anarchy instead of spending their working day looking after their child’s school. But parents have been overwhelming in their support of the 2,000 headteachers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who marched on Downing Street last Friday to make a stand against school funding cuts.
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Setting and streaming in schools

Streaming in schools
Ok, so you knew your daughter was unlikely to be in the top set for maths. But the bottom set seems a bit harsh. Does it matter? It’s a question parents all over the country will be pondering as their offspring are put in their sets ready for the academic year ahead.
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Victim blaming

Victim blaming
From pointing the finger at children who are bullied (why didn't he fight back? is he too sensitive?) to condemning children who are mistreated online (it's her fault for sending the pictures to her boyfriend in the first place), there is still too much victim blaming in schools. ‘Did he bring it on himself?’ ‘If she was more resilient, it probably wouldn’t have happened.’
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2018


Girls and autism

Girls and autism
Hundreds of thousands of girls with autism are undiagnosed, ran the headlines this weekend. In fact, the supposed exposé is nothing new. The failure to recognise autism in girls and women because it is seen as a ‘male’ condition has been talked about at conferences and explored in journals for at least five years. But the revelation that the ratio of girls and boys with the condition may be as high as 1:3 or 1:2 should be a wake-up call to us all.
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COMMENTS  |  SEPTEMBER 2018


Parents get time off for children's first day of school - but is it enough?

First day of school
Working parents, take heed – the BBC reported this week that many employers are now giving workers an extra day of paid leave so they don’t miss out on their child’s first day at school. But do employers go far enough in ensuring parents get to be there for major moments in their child’s school life?
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COMMENTS  |  SEPTEMBER 2018


Have traditional school uniforms had their time?

School uniforms
No September would be complete without the hordes of tabloid headlines around strict headteachers putting children in isolation or sending them home for inappropriate uniforms. But is it me, or do the numbers seem to get bigger and bigger every year? Not just the number of schools clamping down, but the number of kids involved.
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COMMENTS  |  SEPTEMBER 2018


Starting School

Starting school
Thousands of four-year-olds are getting ready to start primary school, but parents are often left feeling more fearful than their littluns. It doesn’t have to be this way. While schools have become better at understanding parents’ anxiety around their children starting school, there is still much more that they could do to support families through the transition.
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COMMENTS  |  AUGUST 2018


A Level Results Day 2018

A level results day
It’s that nail-biting time of year again, with A level results due out in less than a week. But does August have to be so stressful? The University and College Union (UCU) says an ‘urgent overhaul’ of our university application process - so that students apply to university on the basis of their actual, not predicted, exam results - would make things much simpler and fairer for everyone. It would also bring us into line with the rest of the world.
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COMMENTS  |  AUGUST 2018


GCSE Results Day 2018

GCSE results day
Performance at GCSE is the key that unlocks entry to A level, BTec and university courses. Most sixth forms and FE colleges will have indicated the GCSE grades a student must obtain to study a particular subject at A level – it’s usually grade 4 (C) or above, but sometimes a higher grade will be stipulated. Whatever subject(s) you want to study..
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COMMENTS  |  AUGUST 2018


Taking the Next Step: University, Disability and Special Needs

Univerisity disability and special needs
If your son or daughter has special needs or a disability (SEND), taking the next step to university can seem daunting. But, says Bernadette John, universities welcome these applications and have well-established means of easing the path.
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COMMENTS  |  JUNE 2018


Straighten your tie

School uniform
Do school uniforms really benefit children’s learning? Far from it, claim schools that are ditching uniforms altogether. Kate Hilpern reports.‘Tuck that shirt in!’ ‘That’s a detention for forgetting your tie again!’ Reprimands like this will probably sound as familiar to your offspring as it did back in your own school days.
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COMMENTS  |  MAY 2018


How to: Get the best out of your head teacher

Get the best out of your head teacher
Good schools try to foster lasting relationships with parents, working in partnership with them. So how can you develop the best relationship with your head? Guy Canning, who has been a head teacher himself, provides the lowdown...
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COMMENTS  |  APRIL 2018


Prep girls not equal to the beautiful game?

Prep girls and football
One of the reasons parents choose a prep over a state primary - glossy school brochures show gazelle like girls mid leap to grab a netball, flushed boys in joyful athletic tackle. You’re purchasing an almost daily focus on games, with top class coaching, weekly fixtures and match teas; the chance to learn all about comradery, winning and losing on a chilly pitch..
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COMMENTS  |  MARCH 2018


Educational Dilemmas

Education dilemmas
I have two children. My son, 12, is studious, serious and academic, but also sporty and likes performing. He has just started at an independent school and loves it. My daughter, 10, is bright but scatty, lives for her social life and manages her school work on the wing – with highly variable results.
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COMMENTS  |  FEBRUARY 2018


How to: make sure you're not ripped off by tutors

Ripped off by tutors
There’s a reason new tutor firms have sprung up like wildfire, and – spoiler alert – they may not all be driven by idealism. Sure, some people (and in our biased view, very often the best) who go into tutoring either had a rocky ride with the school system themselves (it’s surprising how many are dyslexic) or are natural teachers..
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COMMENTS  |  JANUARY 2018


Parents and social media: Is it always good to share?

Parents and social media
We all know someone who has embraced social media a bit too enthusiastically. Most of us politely press ‘like’ and move on, but who hasn’t occasionally wished for a button that expressed ‘enough already’, ‘too much information’ or, ‘your children really won’t thank you embarrassing them like this’? Janita Clamp for one.
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COMMENTS  |  DECEMBER 2017


Mindfulness

Mindfulness
What’s it all about and do our children really need lessons in it? Janita Clamp investigates. I have seen mindfulness and it is mainly blue. Type ‘mindfulness’ into the Amazon book section and 21,000 titles come up (although by the time you read this it’ll probably be closer to 30,000). Almost every one has a blue cover..
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COMMENTS  |  NOVEMBER 2017


‘Mum, the removal van is here again!’

Moving house
Emma Lee-Potter has moved house 12 times in 25 years. She explores the effect that moving can have on children. I have a serious moving house habit. It dates back to my childhood, when my father was in the RAF and we moved houses (and sometimes countries) every year. It meant that I was always the new girl at school..
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COMMENTS  |  OCTOBER 2017


Educational Dilemmas

Education dilemmas
Question: Our son is bright and sporty and we would like him to go to the local comprehensive. But he may not get in as it's over-subscribed and we live near, but maybe not near enough. The other local school is poor. We could try for the local independents but we would need help with the fees, for example, a scholarship.
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COMMENTS  |  SEPTEMBER 2017


As others see us

Starting primary school
More than 600,000 children will start primary school this week. Nothing unusual in that. Yet, when one particular little boy - his name's George - will start school, the event will be front page news all over the world. How do we know this? Last week, the people who follow such things woke up to fact that 4 year old Prince George was about to set his first polished..
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COMMENTS  |  AUGUST 2017


A guide to children and young people's mental health – the role of education

Mental health
The House of Commons Education and Health Committees report, Children and young people’s mental health — the role of education, released on 2 May 2017, is a mixed bag. The authors state: "The decision to hold an early election has meant that we have been unable to go into the depth that we would have liked in this report."
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COMMENTS  |  MAY 2017


Scholarships and Bursaries: We've come a long, long way....

Scholarships and bursaries
In only four years, The Good Schools Guide has transformed the approach of both schools and parents in relation to Scholarships and Bursaries. When we began, parents had no way of knowing what kind of fee assistance might be available at any individual school - or from the sector in general.
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COMMENTS  |  FEBRUARY 2017


Hail to the Halle

Orchestra
One of the UK's top orchestras has announced a truly brilliant initiative. It is a genuinely liberal, educationally pioneering, project which could do more for social mobility and the spreading of happiness than any number of grammar schools. The Halle wants to open an all-through school in Stoke-on-Trent in 2020.
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COMMENTS  |  FEBRUARY 2017


For 'Grammar Schools' read 'Fee-Paying Schools'

Grammar schools
One criticism of grammar schools is that they take a disproportionate number of children from privileged backgrounds. A far smaller number of grammar school pupils receive the pupil premium than pupils in comprehensive schools. Whatever the reasons for this, we now learn that grammar schools are expecting to ask parents for "donations"..
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COMMENTS  |  JANUARY 2017


The end of free education?

Free education
We’ve got used to the school newsletter imploring cash contributions: The requests for donations for various school projects; the pleas to buy something undesirable where profits will go to the school; the ever more frequent non-uniform days with their £2 levy. But last weekend’s had whole new tone.
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COMMENTS  |  NOVEMBER 2016


Grammar schools are they really what’s needed?

Grammar schools
It’s hard to believe that a politician “accidentally” left details about grammar school proposals on view to a long lens. But it’s about time we had an honest debate about the privileged snapping up the best school places at all types of schools. Yes, the sharp-elbowed middle class is disproportionately represented at grammar schools..
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COMMENTS  |  SEPTEMBER 2016

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles


  • Moving the desks won’t make the results better

    Bernadette John, our Director of Special Educational Needs, despairs at yet another pointless idea from The Department of Education. The school admissions system is, apparently, now taking the blame for the lack of social mobility which is blighting opportunities and depriving the nation of much-needed talent.

  • For 'Grammar Schools' read 'Fee-Paying Schools'

    One criticism of grammar schools is that they take a disproportionate number of children from privileged backgrounds. A far smaller number of grammar school pupils receive the pupil premium than pupils in comprehensive schools.

  • Sad stories of wasted opportunities for children in need

    Buttle UK is a charity which supports disadvantaged children. One of its more imaginative and bolder initiatives has been to fund places at boarding schools for children who are thought likely to benefit from the opportunities this would provide. The project has been sensitively designed so as not to create divisions between children and their own families and social milieu.

  • Time and places

    The initial furore over National Offer Day is over - although, of course, the next one - Primary School Offer Day - is only six weeks away and we'll have to go through the whole miserable experience again. We, at The Good Schools Guide, along with everyone else, get worked up on behalf of children who are not allocated their first choice school or, far more worrying, children who get offered none of their six choices. It isn't good enough and shouldn't be happening.

  • Still under covers?

    Viewers tuning in for the Downton slot on Sunday night will have got something of a jolt – instead of cosy escapism, they were confronted by a brutal tale of death row executions and family betrayals (Undercover, BBC1).


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