Parents · School

London house prices near top schools:huge demand near the capital’s ‘outstanding’ primary schools pushes average prices up by £80k

Source: ES

London house prices near top schools:huge demand near the capital’s ‘outstanding’ primary schools pushes average prices up by £80k

As demand for homes near London’s top-rated primary schools pushes prices up by £80k, we reveal the capital’s most affordable catchments near “outstanding” schools.

Revealed: London’s most affordable catchment areas near top schools

London parents desperate to be in the right catchment areas for top-rated primary schools have driven local property prices up by more than £80,000 above other districts with less successful state schools, says a report published today.

With a quarter of parents selecting a home specifically for the quality of the local school, there is now a 13 per cent price premium on living close to a primary rated “outstanding” by the Ofsted education watchdog.

According to today’s research from Rightmove and FindASchool, the average price in the catchment area of an “outstanding” primary is a record £678,595.

The average price of a home in the catchment area of a primary rated “good” by Ofsted is £659,397, while homes close to schools which “require improvement” average £598,054.

The most expensive “outstanding” school to live close to is Bousfield Primary School, in Kensington, where homes have an average asking price of more than £2.25 million.

Homes within the catchment of Soho Parish CofE Primary Schoolhave an average asking price of almost £2.2 million, while those near St Barnabas and St Philip’s CofE Primary School, again in Kensington, cost just over £2 million.

Most expensive areas near outstanding schools:

School Borough Ofsted rating Average asking price
Bousfield Primary School Kensington & Chelsea 1 £2,254,706
Soho Parish CofE Primary School Westminster 1 £2,158,301
St Barnabas and St Philip’s CofE Primary School Kensington & Chelsea 1 £2,006,270
Ark King Solomon Academy Westminster 1 £1,656,807
Hadley Wood Primary School Enfield 1 £1,621,068


There are considerably more affordable alternatives for parents to consider that are also in the catchment of top-performing schools. The most affordable location in London is in the hinterland of Castilion Primary SchoolThamesmead, where the average asking price of homes is £247,284.

Homes close to nearby Hawksmoor School, which also has an “outstanding” Ofsted report, have an average asking price of £248,786.

Just across the Thames, in BarkingThames View Infantsis another affordable “outstanding” option, with average local prices of £273,459.

Buyers willing to live right on the fringes of London could consider Broadford Primary School, close to the new Crossrail station at Harold Wood in north-east London, where the average asking price is £294,558.Heading west, homes in the catchment of Feltham Hill Infant and Nursery School, in Middlesex, have an asking price of £314,774.

“An Ofsted ‘outstanding’ school will often have a remarkably small catchment area as parents clamour to buy what they perceive to be a stake in their child’s future,” says Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co estate agents. “The effect of families buying around desirable schools produces ever-narrowing catchment areas.”

Many parents, adds Leaf, take an early approach to moving to an area with a good local school — sometimes even before their children are born.

Other mums and dads simply try to cheat the system by renting a property in the catchment area, while keeping the family home elsewhere. But schools are becoming increasingly wise to this trick.

The high cost of homes close to top primaries means some families will compromise on the property to be near their school of choice. “Park Hill Junior School in Croydon is so popular that we are now selling two- to three-bedroom maisonettes to families willing to sacrifice a garden to buy within the catchment,” says Ian Vernon, senior associate at Bairstow Eves. Though the premium to live by an “outstanding” primary school is steep, it pales into insignificance compared with rising private school fees in London. Currently at £15,828 a year, a private primary education for two children could end up costing their parents almost £200,000.

Mark Rimell, a partner in Strutt & Parker’s national country house department, says top schools also create commuter belt price hotspots. Across the South-East, homes close to “outstanding” schools are £71,979 more expensive than those near schools that “require improvement”, partly due to an outflow of Londoners looking for excellent educational standards.

“I moved from Clapham to Hertfordshire for this very reason,” says Rimell. “I wanted better schools with larger grounds that would give my kids a better education and a higher quality of life.”


AttendApp at Deloitte TMT Schools Prediction 2017

AttendApp were proud to support Deloitte TMT School Challenge 2017 award!

Monday 20 March 2017 marked the Grand Final of the fourth annual Deloitte TMT Predictions Schools Challenge: an initiative created to ‘plug the skills gap’ for our clients who report challenges in engaging young people with the skills and interest to pursue careers in the Technology, Media or Telecommunications (TMT) sectors.

The UK-wide competition asked schools from low-income communities to enter teams to develop a technology-based solution to three challenges using themes from Deloitte’s annual TMT Predictions report. The student teams were asked to pitch their ideas to an expert panel of judges, made up of Deloitte partners and senior leaders from Amazon, Fujitsu, BT Openreach and Samsung.

For the first time, Milton Keynes Academy were crowned winners with their innovative ‘BioBuddy’ wristband, designed to aid people with mental health issues. The students were praised for their handling of challenging questions from the judging panel, and their innovative approach to contact a Silicon Valley-based start-up currently working on the technology.








Parents · School

Best schools add £18,600 to average house prices

Source: BBC

Best schools add £18,600 to average house prices

Dad and little girl walkingImage copyrightSOLSTOCK
Image captionTop primary schools in London can add up to £38,800 to the value of nearby homes, research suggests

Being near a good primary school adds £18,600 to the average house price in England, government research has found.

A study by the Department for Education (DfE) has found prices are 8% higher near the best-performing primary schools and 6.8% higher near the best secondary schools.

It said “selection by house price” was restricting access to the best schools.

Property experts said schools affected prices in the same way as high-speed broadband and transport links.

The DfE said one of the top 10% of primary schools in London would put £38,800 on to the value of a nearby home. The average price in the capital was £484,700 in July 2016.

Across England, the average house price of £232,900 would go up £18,600 near one of the best primary schools and £15,800 near one of the best secondary schools.

It is the first time the government has published research of its own on the issue of selection by house price, with banks and estate agents having previously conducted their own studies.

Recent analysis by Teach First found 43% of pupils at England’s outstanding secondary schools were from the wealthiest 20% of families, while a separate study by the Sutton Trust suggested poorer children were much less likely to get places at the schools with the best GCSE results.

The DfE study looked at non-selective state schools with the highest proportions of pupils getting level four or five at Key Stage 2 and at least five A* to C grades in GCSEs, including English and maths.

It found:

  • There is a “clear link” between the price paid for a home and access to good schools
  • House prices near the 10% best-performing primary schools are 8% higher than in the surrounding area
  • Near the 10% best-performing non-selective secondary schools, house prices are 6.8% higher
Man walking children to schoolImage copyrightKIKOVIC

However, the DfE said the difference in house prices “cannot be attributed to school quality alone”.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “With almost 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, more families are able to secure a good school place for their child than ever before. However for too many young people their chances of success still depend on how much money their parents earn and where they can afford to live.

“This new analysis sheds a light on how far selection by house price is restricting ordinary parents’ access to the best schools.

“We want to end this unfairness and our proposals will create more good school places in every part of the country, so every child can have the excellent education they deserve.”

The government is planning to create more grammar schools, but the proposals have come under fire from a cross-party campaign.

‘Prepared to pay more’

Buying agent and market commentator Henry Pryor said: “At long last, the government is confirming what many people have known for years, that being near a good school adds to the price of a home.

“It is all about location, location, location. Good schools put up the price in the same way as high-speed broadband or being near a rail station.

“We will see the same effect at the other end of life, with people prepared to pay more to be near to good hospitals and social care as they get older and rely more on the health service.

“In some cases people will choose to send their children to private school as the fees for doing so are less than the extra they would pay to be near a good state school.”

Previous research by Lloyds Bank suggested average house prices in some areas could be 17% higher than average.

Andrew Mason, Lloyds Bank mortgage products director, said: “The popularity of areas close to high performing schools may mean that homes remain unaffordable for buyers on average earnings.”


Five edtech pitfalls – and how to avoid them (THE)

Five edtech pitfalls – and how to avoid them

Ahead of Jisc Digifest 2017, Geoff Mulgan has some words of advice for those involved in digital education

Banana skin, pitfall, risk
Source: iStock

The UK is a strong leader in digital technologies and in higher education, but we don’t do so well in combining the two. There are some dramatic exceptions, such as the creation of The Open University, but add-on innovation has been the norm.

Higher education has seen little of the more fundamental innovation that has transformed retail, travel and music. So, how could higher education make the most of new streams of digital innovation?

Communications technologies have always shaped education, from scrolls to printed books to television. And radio was used to broadcast lectures even before 1920. The Open University, launched in the late 1960s, and its emulators in countries such as India and China, have used these audiovisual and, more recently, digital tools to reach tens of millions of students.

In more recent decades, the internet has opened up many new ways to share content, to connect students and teachers, and to organise assessment. In the near future, we can expect a continuing flood of innovations making use not just of social media, but also of virtual and augmented reality, and machine learning.

But the novelty of these tools means that there are likely to be as many failures as successes. Here are my five common digital pitfalls – and suggestions on how they can be avoided.

Drawing on history

The most surprising pitfall is our repeated failure to learn. Recent and very visible innovations in digital higher education have come mainly from the US, where large sums have been invested in edX, Coursera, Udacity and other massive open online course (Mooc) providers.

These are impressive in many ways, but much less impressive in their failure to take account of decades of experience with online learning. That led to poor levels of completion and engagement, and a failure to develop convincing revenue models. So although by some measures Moocs have been a great success – with tens of millions signed up – they have had much less impact than they could have had, with many acting as little more than marketing front ends for traditional universities.

Mobilising social and peer effects

A key lesson is that we don’t learn that well by just having content projected at us. Instead, we need feedback, and often we need peer encouragement and pressure. That was well understood years ago by the OU – which was why tutors and summer camps complemented the broadcast materials on offer.

It’s also been key to the success of the OU’s Mooc platform FutureLearn – now with some 5 million students – which has encouraged learners to link together horizontally as well as vertically. A related innovation has been crowdteaching: educators working together to create, share and adapt curricula and classroom activities online, using their peers’ work to serve the needs of students. Coventry University’s #Phonar course is a particularly good example of this, having drawn tens of thousands of people into contributing as well as learning.

Reviewing business models

A third consistent weakness of recent digital experiments has been insufficient attention to business models and revenues. Too often, the hope has been “if you build, it they will come”.

For some Moocs, like the Khan Academy, that benefit from large philanthropic grants, this doesn’t matter much. Others are having to cope with insufficient revenues by experimenting with charging for certificates, linking students with potential employers, and charging for supplementary services. Coursera, for example, has moved to work much more with employers.

But the risk here, as with so much internet-based provision, is that the employer – not the student – ends up not being viewed as the client.

Experimenting and testing

The fourth problem is one that afflicts all of edtech: a failure to systematically experiment. It is rare for ideas to work first time. That’s why vigorous experiment, ideally with control groups, is so vital.

There’s no shortage of ideas ready for larger-scale experiment. Take the new tools for assessment and feedback, like the intelligent assessment technology (IAT) engine created by the OU – designed to deliver instant feedback to help students monitor their progress and encourage communication with tutors. The feedback is tailored to allow each student to improve their responses.

Other interesting tools are the small private online courses (SPOCs), which allow professors to engage with a targeted group of learners, who gain from a thorough and intimate course environment. Uses of artificial intelligence – which can greatly enhance adaptive learning – are also ripe for experiment. But there is no systematic funding or orchestration of these opportunities at present.

Bringing together evidence

The fifth pitfall is particularly ironic for universities. Many other fields now have systematic repositories of evidence. These exist for primary and secondary schooling, and for early intervention. But there’s nothing comparable for higher education.

As a result, there is no systematic pooling of what’s known to work, for example, in the burgeoning field of adaptive learning tools. The result is a great deal of wasted effort.

There can be little doubt that digital technologies will continue to transform every aspect of higher education, from research and teaching to assessment. Predictions that the traditional university would be replaced wholesale have proved to be unfounded. But it would be surprising to me if much of the daily life of universities did not change profoundly.

Higher education is not an industry. But it is a major source of employment, earnings and opportunity. The lack of government support is a striking contrast with other industries, like aerospace, digital and genomics, which have had generous public subsidy; recognition that long-term investment pays off; and constant efforts to align law and regulation with innovation funding.

Part of the reason is that when higher education does have the chance to lobby ministers, universities generally argue for their own particular interests, or for greater freedoms in the present rather than seeking support for future innovation. If we’re to retain our position as a global leader of higher education, and one with digital innovation at its core, this will have to change.

Geoff Mulgan is chief executive of Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), and keynote speaker at Jisc’s Digifest 2017. Times Higher Education is a media sponsor for the event.


MOOC Offers Assistance on Designing Blended Learning Courses (Campus Learning)

MOOC Offers Assistance on Designing Blended Learning Courses

University of Central Florida (UCF) and Educause have re-launched a no-cost massive open online course (MOOC) that offers facilitated assistance to faculty members and instructional designers who want to develop blended courses.

BlendKit2017: Becoming a Blended Learning Designer, hosted on Instructure‘s Canvas Network, will be facilitated by Sue Bauer and Baiyun Chen, instructional designers at UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning. Throughout the five-week course, participants will explore key issues related to blended learning and best practices. They will also receive step-by-step guidance on developing design documents, creating content pages and other materials needed for a blended course.

The MOOC includes:

  • Practical step-by-step “how to” guides;
  • Assessment and critique on design work from course experts and peers;
  • Blogging and social networking opportunities; and
  • Weekly webinars with guest presenters.

BlendKit2017 runs Feb. 27 to May 22. The course is free, but students can choose to participate in the $89 certification track to have their portfolios reviewed. The track includes a certificate and digital badge from UCF and Educause.

The MOOC is the fifth iteration between Educause and UCF. The course was funded by a Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant in 2011, which leveraged UCF’s expertise to create BlendKit as a free, open resource for other higher education institutions.

To learn more about what BlendKit2017 entails, watch the video below.

Parents · School

How premium house prices by top schools leave poorer pupils the losers

Source: Mirror

Poorer children are missing out on places at England’s top performing schools because their parents can’t afford a £45,700 house premium.

Research has found that living in the catchment area of one of the 500 top comprehensives – based on GCSE results – costs around 20% more than the average house in the same local authority.

And the top 500 schools are more ‘socially selective’ taking just over half the proportion of disadvantaged pupils taken by the average state school – 9% compared to 17%.

A study by the Sutton Trust education charity found that these schools admit around 9.4% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) – a key measure of poverty, compared to 17.2% attending the average state school.

More than eight in 10 (85%) of the top 500 schools take fewer poorer pupils than they should do, given the numbers living in their catchment area.

Exam cheating
Could you forget about cheating in an exam? (Image: Getty)

Faith schools were the most socially selective group of top schools, the study concludes, making up 33.4% of the top 500, based on A*-C grades, including English and maths.

The findings come on the day that children across the country are told which secondary school they have been allocated for this autumn and show that the top schools are taking more poorer pupils, up from 7.6% in 2013.

Sir Peter Lampl,Sutton Trust chairman, said: “Getting a place at a high attaining school is key to getting on in life. Yet the bottom line is your chances of doing that depends on your parents’ income and whether they can afford the extra £45,700 house premium to live in the catchment area.

“This is why we want to see more use of ballots – where a proportion of places is allocated randomly. Ballots would ensure that a wider mix of pupils would get into the best schools.”

An analysis of government figures shows a fall in the proportion of families winning a place at their favoured secondary school.

Liverpool, in the North West, saw the biggest drop in first choices, down seven percentage points on 2015, while Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, had the biggest drop in overall preferences year on year, down 4.2 points.

Poorer children are missing out on places at top schools (PA)

Meanwhile, poorer children are facing greater difficulties to break the “class ceiling” because of their background, a report by the social mobility chairty Teach First has found.

The poorest areas of England are half as likely to have an outstanding secondary and five times more likely to have a school that is rated as less than good, the report’s analysis of official data shows.

While nearly all secondary schools (93%) in the richest areas of the country are judged by Ofsted to be “good” or “outstanding”, only about two-thirds (67%) are at this level in the poorest areas.

About one in 14 (7%) secondary schools in the richest areas are considered to “require improvement” or are “inadequate”, compared with more than a third (36%) of those in the poorest places.

“These barriers are preventing us from achieving a country that works for everyone; where opportunities are available for all, not an impossible dream for many.Even those who manage to break down barriers early on in their life are still likely to struggle later on.”


Sex education to be compulsory in England’s schools (BBC)

Sex education to be compulsory in England’s schools

classroomImage copyrightPA

Sex and relationships education is to be made compulsory in all schools in England, the government has announced.

All children from the age of four will be taught about safe and healthy relationships, Education Secretary Justine Greening said.

Children will also be taught, at an appropriate age, about sex. But parents will still have the right to withdraw their children from these classes.

Until now, sex education has been compulsory only in council-run schools.

Since academies and free schools are not under local authority control, they do not have to follow the national curriculum and have not been obliged to teach sex and relationships education (SRE).

Current guidance ‘outdated’

In practice, the vast majority do teach the subject – the government’s announcement will mean all schools across the system will be bound by the same obligation.

Age-appropriate lessons will have particular emphasis on what constitutes healthy relationships, as well as the dangers of sexting, online pornography and sexual harassment.

In primary schools, the focus would be on building healthy relationships and staying safe, the Department for Education (DfE) said, while in secondary school it would focus on sex as well as relationships.

The government will hold discussions on what should be taught to children, and at what age, and there will be a public consultation later this year.

Image captionCyber-bullying and sexting are just some of the modern challenges that young people face

Pupils could be taught the new curriculum from September 2019, the DfE said.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Greening said: “At the moment, many schools teach sex and relationships education.

“But it’s not mandatory, and, therefore, for many children, they are not coming out of our schools really being equipped to deal with the modern world or indeed be safe and protected from some of the very modern challenges that young people face on cyberbullying and sexting.

“What we’re introducing today is mandatory relationships and sex education in all secondary schools, but also mandatory relationships education in primary schools as well.

“And, of course, all of this, it’s important, is age-appropriate and, of course, it’s also important to retain, for sex education, a parent’s right to withdraw their child.”

Ms Greening said schools would have flexibility over how they delivered the subjects and faith schools would continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith.

The current guidance for SRE, introduced in 2000, was outdated, she added.

‘Sexual health time bomb’

The news was welcomed by the Local Government Association, which has been campaigning for compulsory sex education in all schools.

Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the association’s community wellbeing board, said: “The lack of compulsory SRE in secondary academies and free schools is storing up problems for later on in life, creating a ticking sexual health time bomb, as we are seeing in those who have recently left school.

“We believe that making SRE compulsory in all secondary schools, not just council-maintained ones, could make a real difference in reversing this trend, by preparing pupils for adulthood and enabling them to better take care of themselves and future partners.”

Children in sex education lessons

But critics fear the announcement weakens the influence of parents.

The organisation Christian Concern said it was not for the state to prescribe what was taught in this area.

Chief executive Andrea Williams told the BBC: “Children need to be protected, and certainly when they’re [still at primary school], we need to be guarding their innocence.

“We need to be protecting them from things, working with parents to ensure that what they might need to know – which will be different for every child child, different in every context across the country – is properly looked at.

“But this is something that should be individualised, not something that the state can deliver wholesale.”

Safe at School Campaign, run by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, described the announcement as a “tragedy”.

National co-ordinator Antonia Tully said: “Parents will be absolutely powerless to protect their children from presentations of sexual activity, which we know is part of many sex education teaching resources for primary school children.

“The state simply cannot safeguard children in the same way that parents can. This proposal is sending a huge message to parents that they are unfit to teach their own children about sex.”

School leaders, however, welcomed the news.

A condom and contraceptive pillsImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK
Image captionLessons must be age-appropriate, the government says

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is so important for young people to be taught about appropriate relationships, and the duties set out today bring that one step closer.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We do not believe it is necessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study, and we would urge ministers against being too prescriptive,” he said.

Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive of the PHSE Association said: “This is a historic step and a clear statement of intent from government.

“Following years of campaigning we are delighted that Justine Greening has taken this vital step to respond to the clear call from parents, teachers and young people that education must prepare all children, in all schools, for the opportunities and challenges of modern life.”

Ms Greening’s announcement follows a widespread campaign by charities, MPs and local authorities, calling for (SRE) to be made a statutory for all schools.

At the end of last year, the chairmen and women of five different Commons select committees called on Ms Greening to make SRE a statutory subject.

Elsewhere in the UK

SRE is part of the curriculum in Wales, but it is not currently compulsory.

The Welsh government says it expects young people to receive age-appropriate lessons in school, covering “all aspects of relationships, sexual health and wellbeing issues”.

The subject is not compulsory in Scotland but new guidance was introduced in 2014. Schools and local authorities are responsible for deciding how to put the guidelines into practice.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Education requires each school to have its own written policy on how it will address the delivery of relationship and sexuality education (RSE).

RSE must be delivered “in a sensitive manner which is appropriate to the age and understanding of pupils and the ethos of the school”.


The Education Age (HuffBlog)

Today, the average three or four-year-old is proficient in using technology. They can navigate around intuitive phones and tablets leaving the most tech-savvy parents bemused. As a means of protection, we often try to discourage this usage and minimise screen time. We hark back to the days of climbing trees and rolling down hills, and rightly so. However, as much as we try to shield our mobile natives – Gen Z and Gen Alpha – from technology, the fact is, they are submerged in it, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not all bad.

Let’s face it, the next generation are being born with computers in hand. Everything from their thermometers to their passports are digital and so it should be. It’s the way that the world is turning and there is tremendous benefit to be gained from this.

One place where technology is making a positive impact for both children and guardians is in schools. Education has long been run on archaic methods but this is slowly changing to reflect today’s children in today’s connected society.

New generations are experiencing technology for the first time outside of school – it’s used for socialising or entertainment so why not embrace it in an environment that has been developed to teach and hone understanding.

As technology becomes an intrinsic part of our everyday lives what are the benefits to introducing it into the classroom? And how can we best implement and manage the technology and its users?

Making Learning Dynamic

Technology is without doubt a disruptive force in schools. The ability of interactive whiteboards, tablets, wearable devices and video sharing facilities to deliver engaging and exciting new ways to teach and learn cannot be underestimated.

At last month’s Bett Conference the technology on display was worlds apart from the traditional classroom. The four -day conference showcased everything from robots that teach children how to ski on school trips, drones that are used for after school drone clubs to AR which has enabled students at an Ohio university to dissect bones and organs and view veins in detail.

IT in schools can also enable parents to gain a better understanding of their child’s performance – whether that’s viewing and tracking performance online, or using video webinar resources to view and understand more about the curriculum and the topics they explore. Greater use of technology can help parents be part of the learning process too. Increasing productivity through the use of digital. For example, it can enable homework to be sent home instantly via an online portal or email. Increasing efficiency and maximising output.

Beyond changing the interaction between teacher and parent, more importantly, is the impact on the relationship between teacher and student. Today teachers are having to think of evermore imaginative ways to captivate their young audience and technology could be the answer. A connected classroom could provide the ability to personalise lessons for children regardless of their abilities and provide a more interactive learning environment which could equally ease teacher workloads. Many virtualised learning now, enable students to dynamically access information and collaborate interactively with teaching staff – saving students and teachers time and governments money.

Lingering Doubt

Despite the rapid rate of growth and investment in education technology – our recent research into ‘Digital Dexterity’, for example, found that over half of office workers feel that schools are currently providing students with the digital skills they need – doubt still lingers around the digitisation of our classrooms. How far is technology a worthwhile investment in a sector that’s already facing serious funding challenges, and are we really using it to its full potential?

To gain some insight into this issue, 1,000 A-Level students were questioned last year about their attitudes towards technology at school. The results were revelatory, with 73% of the teenagers saying they felt frustrated at the inability of their teachers to use the technologies available to them effectively. The knock-on effects of this are serious; lack of concentration, impaired learning and reduced engagement to name but a few.

Implementing technology schemes is all about engaging with teachers first, to deliver tailored solutions fit for their needs. The right technology partner – one that understands how to harness IT to improve education, manage change effectively, and develop the skills of those using the technology – will help schools feel the benefits of these new ways of teaching.

Further education on technology must become stronger so graduates and school leavers are ready for the future that lies ahead of them. Let’s awaken teaching to the opportunities enhanced use of technology presents, and develop an education system that can flourish in this new age. As a nation, we must work together to inspire more young people to learn digital skills before entering the workplace.

If I were you I’d look forward to a future where textbooks are replaced by software on a connected university campus, and you out away your devices for tree climbing at the weekends.


Should parents have to pay fees – for a state school education? (Guardian)

As more cash-strapped headteachers ask families to contribute money for essentials, some wonder why their taxes don’t cover it
Mark Clutterbuck in classroom
Mark Clutterbuck, of Coombe junior school in Kingston upon Thames, is one of many headteachers forced to turn to parents to fund essentials. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Back in September, Nic Fearon-Low received a letter from the head of his daughter’s school, Coombe Hill juniors in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, suggesting a voluntary parental contribution of £60 a year for school funds. He was, he says, “a bit put out”. Two months later another letter arrived, signed by a number of local heads, warning of a dire funding shortfall if the government’s plan for a new national funding formula, taking money from some areas and giving more to others, goes ahead in its current form.

At this point, Fearon-Low says, “I was incensed” – not at the headteachers, but at the crisis they face. “They have to come to us to meet core funding. That any government can put them in that position is awful.” He launched a petition asking the education secretary, Justine Greening, to address headteachers’ concerns.

A report by the National Audit Office has said schools face a funding reduction of 8% in real terms by 2019-20. They are already facing many increased costs: higher contributions to national insurance and teachers’ pensions, the introduction of the “national living wage”, pay rises and the apprenticeship levy. There’s no extra money for these, nor is funding per pupil rising in line with inflation. Schools have made some painful cuts in staffing and services, including counselling. Now some are begging.

There are no rules to prevent schools from seeking voluntary fees from parents, whether for extras such as trips, or for basics like books and staff salaries, as long as there is no link between that and admission to the school. But it doesn’t mean the idea is popular.

Mark Clutterbuck, the headteacher of Coombe Hill juniors, feels he has no option. “I really don’t like asking parents for money,” he says. “It feels uncomfortable.” He hopes parents’ response will be “frustration with national government because it’s a huge issue”.

Many other schools are also turning to parents, it seems. A letter sent in September by the Hawthorns primary school in Wokingham says that despite lobbying its local MP and council for better funding, and trying to save money on staffing, the school is “still struggling to balance the budget, which is in conflict with our desire to offer the high-quality education and learning opportunities we want for our pupils”.

Its headteacher, Pat Kerton, says: “I’d reached the point I couldn’t afford to update my reading scheme, and that’s a core essential for a core subject.” Her letter to parents asks for between £1 and £5 a month, while trying to reassure them that they should not feel “under financial pressure or feel guilty” if they cannot pay. Does she think she should have to ask parents for donations? “Absolutely not. Parents told me they were willing to do it, but it’s wrong. They’re already paying [for education] in their taxes.”

At Caversham primary in Reading, headteacher Ruth Perry has just asked parents for £1 a day, £190 per year, because of cuts to the education budget, and said the decision was “not one that we are happy to be making”. And in Muswell Hill, north London, Fortismere secondary school is linking its financial plea directly to unavoidable increased costs – rises in pension and national insurance contributions and pay increases – and the planned national funding formula. “Indicative numbers suggest that Fortismere will lose 1.5% of its budget in 2018/19 and 3% in 2019/20” says the letter, dated January this year. The school is asking each family for £25 a term, because despite previous fundraising efforts, “departments still face a large shortfall in funding compared to previous years”.

Grammar schools are not immune. Ilkley grammar school has asked parents for up to £180 a year. Pate’s grammar school in Cheltenham has a button on its homepage called Making Ends Meet, which states it faces “such extreme revenue pressures that we have no alternative but to direct our entire fundraising efforts to help the ‘revenue pot’, rather than to purchase additional resources”. Pate’s is not asking parents to pay for extras – it’s clear that the £125,000 it is trying to raise this year is for core funding. Other grammar schools are threatening to follow suit.

So what do parents feel is acceptable? It seems to come down to what is a desirable “extra”, and what is essential to teaching and learning. Joanna Yurky, co-founder of the parents’ campaign Fair Funding For All Schools, says three schools in her area are asking for regular direct debit fees. “What has changed is the need for schools to depend on parents to plug the shortfall. It’s different from having a whip round for the Christmas show,” she says. “We make absolutely no criticism of the heads or governors – our criticism is aimed at the government, which is causing an unsustainable financial situation for our schools. It is no secret, but the government is trying to pretend that it is not happening.”

A parent with children in a Bracknell secondary has been asked to pay £15 for art materials and £20 for design technology. She was then charged further sums for visiting speakers, which she had thought would be covered by an existing special activities payment of £35, which she had already been asked to pay for each of her children. “When you know not everyone will pay, it becomes a tax on those who do. I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

Sir Andrew Carter, chief executive of the South Farnham Educational Trust, based in wealthy west Surrey, and a favourite headteacher of Michael Gove, said recently that schools ought to be able to ask for fees of around £500 a year and seek private investment to help with their finances. But what works in South Farnham is less likely to raise the same amounts in poorer areas. Even in affluent areas some parents will struggle. One in north London says she has been asked for £700 this year. “We only pay part of it – we just can’t afford it.”

Some heads say they will never ask parents for money on principle. John Tomsett, of Huntington school in York, says: “Until we are officially privatised and charging becomes the norm, I will continue to refrain from asking taxpayers to make additional contributions towards educating their children beyond the tax they have already paid.”

And Marc Rowland, policy and research director at the National Education Trust, warns that asking parents for donations could deter poorer families from applying to certain schools. “There are subtler approaches being adopted too, like ‘you must buy a tablet or device for your child joining year 7’,” he says. “Those asking for contributions need to get inside the skin of their disadvantaged families and see it from their perspective.”

Asked whether seeking money from parents was an acceptable solution to schools’ cash crisis, a Department for Education spokesperson said that school funding is at its highest level on record. The DfE is still consulting on the new funding formula, he said. “We are protecting per pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.”

This misses the point, says Yurky. “It’s really angering parents that [the government] is trotting out this line,” she says. “Our starting point should be that all schools can and should be funded adequately.”