It’s up to parents on 11+ exam prep!!

Here’s my take on a BBC education news story concerning an educational charity that says the culture of coaching pupils for 11-plus exams must end so poor bright children are not excluded from grammar schools.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24850139 >

This is cold, hard economics. The Sutton Trust’s opinion on 11+ preparation is absolutely sound; it is unfair. The issue here runs far deeper into society as a whole, right to the roots of our nation. If we are an open, democratic, free market economy should we subsidise tuition for those from poorer backgrounds or should we look deeper and focus on how we can make those families less poor?

There are major issues here. Who do you subsidise? Who will pay for this tuition at the back end of a double dip recession?

According to the BBC, ‘the report suggests giving priority to poor, bright pupils who meet certain entrance requirements and are eligible for the pupil premium because their families have been in receipt of certain benefits in the previous few years.’ Will not people argue that this unfair to families who work very hard to scrape the money together to provide tuition for their children to help them gain grammar school places? Could this not be a disincentive to families on benefits to find work and leave the grasp of the benefits system?

I continue to believe that the only solution to these problems is root and branch reform of the UK Education system as a whole. Qualified teachers only, no Free Schools, abolition of the multiple examination board system, back to challenging examinations at 16 with the same exams sat by all, introduction of vocational qualifications at school in tandem with compulsory education for 14 – 16 year olds, decent and fair pay for teachers, slashing of red tape; the list goes on.

With better education for all the middle class scrum for grammar school places would be reversed.

 

 

Flaws in the CRB / DBS enhanced disclosure check process

THE DBS AND ENHANCED DISCLOSURE CHECKS

 

At Kensington & Chelsea Tutors Ltd we have been carrying out Enhanced Disclosure criminal background checks through the Criminal Records Bureau for approaching a decade.

Recently the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Following the creation of the DBS some of the rules for applying for Enhanced Disclosure checks have changed.

Historically an employer who wished to carry out Disclosures could apply to the CRB to become a Registered Body. Once thoroughly vetted, and after a mountain of paperwork, this status could be achieved. From that day forward the Registered Body was empowered to carry out checks under strict guidelines – this is still the case.

After a form had been completed by both the applicant and the Registered Body it was submitted by post to the CRB. When the relevant checks were completed the CRB issued a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure to both the applicant and the Registered Body – THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.

NOW ONLY THE APPLICANT receives a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure certificate.

THIS IS ABSOLUTE MADNESS.

The DBS says that Registered Bodies must ask the applicants to bring back their Certificates once completed. This is impractical, wrong and dangerous in so many ways:

  • The length of time the application takes to process is random and unknown depending on the applicant.
  • Applicants’ prospects of employment are delayed because they are forced to wait for the certificate and then take it back to the Registered Body.
  • The onus is on the applicants (NOT THE REGISTERED BODY) to be forthcoming with their certificates.
  • The applicant may live a long distance from the Registered Body’s offices.
  • The applicant has paid £44 (unless a volunteer) for the check and may be quite rightly unwilling to send it in the post.
  • The Registered Body has no guarantee that the certificate is genuine no matter what watermarking etc. the DBS says should be present.
  • The Registered Body should not be put in the position of authenticating certificates provided to them by the INDIVIDUAL BEING CHECKED – IF AN INDIVIDUAL ACTIVELY WANTED TO GAIN ACCESS TO CHILDREN (in our agency’s case) ASKING THEM TO PROVIDE THEIR OWN PAPERWORK IS FRAUGHT WITH THE POSSIBLY OF FORGERY AND IS ULTIMATELY ENDANGERING THE PEOPLE THE DBS IS DESIGNED TO PROTECT

The newly formed DBS has also launched an Update Service where theoretically future warnings or convictions etc. are uploaded onto their database and both applicants and Registered Bodies have the ability to log in and check – on paper a very good idea and one which in principle would make multiple applications by an individual a thing of the past. The DBS implies that the Updating Service removes the need for Registered Bodies to receive copies of the certification.

To quote from the DBS’s information:

‘To coincide with the launch of the Update Service the DBS will no longer automatically issue a copy of your DBS Certificate to the Registered Body who countersigned your DBS application form. Employers and recruiting organisations will need to ask you for sight of your DBS Certificate. This is to give you greater control over your information.’

UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS CURRENTLY A HOWLING FLAW IN THIS PROCESS. An applicant’s subscription to the Updating Service is NOT MANDATORY! In fact there are a set of criteria:

  • The applicant must pay an ANNUAL fee of £13 for the pleasure of being part of this scheme – an enormous disincentive.
  • They need the application form reference number in order to apply before their registration; this is easily forgotten as it was not part of the process previously.
  • If they fail to register before their certificate is issued they have 14 days from THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE to apply or they will no longer be eligible. They have to be relied upon to do this.

Given these criteria there is ample scope for applicants not to register.

  • In many cases the applicants won’t care whether their status is updated or not and so why pay?
  • PEOPLE WITH AN INTENTION TO OFFEND WHO MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE IN THE FUTURE WILL CLEARLY NOT APPLY.
  • It may be a one-off application because they are applying for a job. The onus to check is on the new employer, the applicant has no personal obligation.
  • They may assume that future applications will be paid for on their behalf which is often the case; this is the case in the teaching profession. In which case, why bother? AND WHY PAY?

This is what the DBS says about this new system:

‘These checks are to assist employers in making safer recruitment and licensing decisions.’

Well, let’s look at that. Let’s see where that leaves Kensington and Chelsea Tutors; we do up to 30 or 40 checks a month. IT IS WORTH NOTING HERE THAT ALL WE WANT IS THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN. WE WANT A SAFE EFFICIENT WAY OF VETTING APPLICANTS WHOM WE MIGHT GIVE ACCESS TO CHILDREN.

Here are the scenarios we find ourselves up against:

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has no previous Disclosure. We will carry out a check and encourage the applicant to subscribe to the Update Service. We will have to rely on the applicant to show us their certificate and to subscribe. We obviously would not consider an application until we have seen a certificate; this process is much more prolonged as we no longer receive certification. IF the applicant subscribes to the Update Service we can log in and check. If the applicant DOES NOT subscribe to the Update Service the Disclosure becomes a one-off as before and neither we nor any other potential employer has access to updated information. At least before we had physical evidence that we had carried out the check, now we just have photocopies or letters and numbers on a piece of paper.

 

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure but has not subscribed to the Updating Service. The first thing is to establish when the Disclosure took place; this is crucial to its credibility. It is an impossibility for any background check to have any forward moving absolute validity; THE APPLICANT MAY HAVE COMMITTED A CRIME THE DAY AFTER THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE but prior to the interview. The Updating Service could have solved this problem notwithstanding the omissions outlined above – IT IS NOT COMPULSORY. Unless a check is very recent we normally insist on a fresh one being carried out. We then run into the same problems outlined above; will they sign up? We can’t force them.
  2. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure and HAS subscribed to the Updating Service. In this case we can view the original document, go online and check for updates and given that we take it as read that the DBS have done their checks correctly everybody is happy. The future problem is if the applicant fails to continue to pay their annual fee then updates are no longer available. They cannot re-subscribe as many more than 14 days will have elapsed from the date on the original Disclosure. In this case we will have to check them again.

TNE SYSTEM IS OVER-COMPLICATED, OPEN TO POTENTIAL FRAUD AND THEREFORE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS. IT IS ALSO UNHELPFUL TO THE REGISTERED BODIES WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING.

 

IT WOULD BE SO SIMPLE TO MAKE THIS AN EFFICIENT, SAFER SYSTEM.

  1. NO PAPER FORMS – THESE CONTAIN VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE GAMET OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAILS – THEY CAN GET LOST IN THE POST OR STOLEN. IDENTITY THEFT IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. WE ARE IN A DIGITAL AGE. REGISTERED BODIES SHOULD HAVE A SECURE ENCRYPTED LOG-IN WITH A GADGET SIMILAR TO THOSE USED FOR ON LINE BANKING. FORMS CAN BE FILLED IN ON LINE.

 

  1. INDIVIDUALS, UPON THEIR ELECTRONIC FORM REACHING THE DBS, SHOULD BE ISSUED A USER ID.

 

  1. ONCE THE CHECKS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT AND THE DISCLOSURE ISSUED BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE SEPARATELY ALERTED BY EMAIL. THEY CAN THEN LOG IN AND PERUSE THE RESULTS.

 

  1. EACH APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY PUT ON AN UPDATING SERVICE. IF THERE IS A CHANGE IN STATUS BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY INFORMED BY EMAIL THAT A CHANGE HAS OCCURED. EACH CAN THEN LOG IN AND SEE WHAT THAT CHANGE IS.

 

 

  1. IF A REGISTERED BODY WANTS TO VET AN APPLICANT WHO SAYS HE OR SHE HAS HAD A DISCLOSURE CARRIED OUT ALREADY (WHICH WILL BY DEFINITION BE UP-TO-DATE) THE REGISTERED BODY SHOULD CARRY OUT IDENTITY CHECKS AS IS THE CASE WITH FULL APPLICATIONS AT PRESENT. ONCE SATISFIED AND UPON RECEIPT OF THE APPLICANT’S CERTIFICATE NUMBER FROM THE APPLICANT THE REGISTERED BODY CAN LOG IN AND CHECK THAT THE DETAILS MATCH AND THAT THERE ARE NO UPDATES.

 

  1. IN THE CASE OF 5 (ABOVE) THE NEW REGISTERED BODY WILL ALSO RECEIVE UPDATES REGARDING THE APPLICANT DESPITE NOT HAVING ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT THE ORIGINAL DISCLOSURE.

 

  1. THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE UPDATE SERVICE. REALLY THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE CHECKS THEMSELVES; IT SHOULD BE A PUBLIC SERVICE HELPING TO KEEP CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULTS SAFE. HOWEVER, IN A WORLD OF AUSTERITY MEASURES BOTH APPLICANTS AND REGISTERED BODIES ARE RESIGNED TO THE COST. THIS SHOULD REMAIN AT £44. IN THE FUTURE IMPROVED DIGITAL METHODS WILL REDUCE COSTS.

Online UK exams inevitable BUT be careful!

Here’s my take on the following news story from BBC education…

Exams all online within a decade

Traditional exams will die out within a decade in favour of online assessment, predicts a private schools leader
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24174535 >

We will need to be careful with this as some subjects lend themselves to computer-based exams much better than others. Software will have to be carefully written. Do we spell and grammar check? Will it be done on special devices to prevent users accessing the internet or other in-built tools?

This is the inevitable future and we should embrace it; but we need to do it carefully and gradually. I do hope future generations don’t lose the ability to write. I find it hard to get used to it myself these days and I was born in 1970!
I suppose the one great advantage is that everybody’s ‘handwriting’ will be legible!!

Follow on Twitter @webtutornet / @kandctutors

 

 

 

Summer tuition? The key is balance!

Here’s my take on a recent story on the BBC education news site…

Summer tutoring awaits many pupils

http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-23465178 >

I must say that despite being the owner of a tutoring company I find this trend slightly worrying. When I swap my business hat for my parent hat and look at my children enjoying their summer break I find myself being delighted that they are having such a great time in the sunshine. Obviously it is important to keep up with reading and summer homework but I also think that a break is good, especially for younger children.
We are living in a very competitive world and all parents should want their children to maximise their potential. For some the summer break may be a good time to help a struggling student, the key is getting the balance right.

 

Tech levels a positive step forward

Tech-levels to have A-level status
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-23168781

 

I think this is a very positive step by the government. It’s about time that more vocational qualifications are given more credibility. It is vital that the standard of these qualifications is established and maintained at a high level but this a very positive step away from the ‘passing’ culture we have got used to in the past two decades. Hopefully this is an admission by the government that not all students are suited to mainstream academics and that proper vocational opportunities need to be opened up. That is not to say that lower achieving students should be pushed towards a more vocational route, there are those who might be academic high fliers who would prefer a different course. Giving vocational qualifications credibility will also help the economy as the training they receive has the potential to reassure trade and industry that those that have come down this route have acquired worthwhile skills to a high standard. The key is to make sure that standards are set at a high level and maintained.

 

 

 

Technology is changing the face of private tuition

The internet and information technology are changing the way we view the world and they are now playing their part in changing the face of private tuition!

 

Despite the economic situation the demand for private tuition continues to rise, particularly for those in private education, with a growing number of enquiries that we receive from parents and pupils specifically requesting an online variation.

 

Although there will always be a place for conventional face to face tutorials, the days of tutors travelling through rush hour traffic to deliver a lesson at a pupil’s home are becoming somewhat numbered.

 

Online tutoring allows pupils and tutors to connect wherever they might be in the world. For example at Webtutornet we’ve already seen lessons delivered by tutors in Australia as well as to pupils abroad on holiday facing imminent exams.

 

It represents a wholly flexible approach and is clearly the way forward for today’s media savvy ‘Facebook’ generation.

 

They are far more used to communicating face to face online through MSN or Skype than my own generation. However, it is the concerns of parents that frequently have to be countered.

 

There are a number of online tuition resources and platforms which represent the future face of private tuition and most of the solutions available charge a registration fee and offer parents essential peace of mind with a safe, secure and closely monitored service.

 

It’s critical that each and every tutor delivering private tuition is comprehensively vetted by their agency. Every tutor applicant interviewed by Kensington & Chelsea Tutors undergoes a series of strict checks including Vetting & Barring Service (VBS) Enhanced Disclosure checks before they are appointed.

 

Having vetted over 2000 tutors since 2002 and being a father myself I’m well aware of the importance of this process and the integrity and credibility it offers.

 

Because by its very nature online tuition does not always allow an in person interview webtutornet has been designed to maximise student security. There is no computer sharing or exchanging of personal information necessary to have an excellent online lesson with an expert.

 

 

The trend towards online resources is one of a few that we have identified in recent times. There has been a 20% increase over the course of the last 12 months in 6-11 year-olds opting for extra curricular tuition due to the introduction of 7+ tests and pupils themselves are increasingly taking the initiative and organising their own lessons.

 

The number of students contacting us direct has doubled in the last year and that maybe down to a growing awareness of the importance of getting a good start in life and an evolving knowledge of how lessons can be delivered just as easily online. It’s still the parents who will pay the fees though!

 

From the start with K&C Tutors in 2002 we’ve seen a consistent 60%-40% split with more females opting for private tuition. Perhaps the girls are more conscientious?

 

Returning to online private tuition perhaps it’s good to get the expert’s perspective? Angad Rihal, a maths teacher who has used Webtutornet extensively, explained: “This is a truly bespoke solution that has been developed for the student with teaching in mind. The ease of use clearly shows it has been masterminded by people in the industry and is far superior to just using dabble board or Skype.

 

“This is finally bridging the gap between the internet and private teaching which is long overdue and fitting given the tech savvy zeitgeist.

 

“It also saves a lot of time on travelling to the homes of students which, with traffic the way it is, can be a priceless advantage!” added Angad.

 

Online private tuition allows tutors and pupils to be anywhere in the world when conducting lessons. It is inevitable that this approach will become the norm!

 

The future is here and it’s clear that the face of private tuition is changing!

 

For more details visit www.webtutornet.com or www.kctutors.co.uk

 

LET TEACHERS TEACH RATHER THAN FINGER POINT!

Here’s my take on this story that appeared recently on the BBC website…

Schools failing brightest pupils

A culture of low expectations is letting down bright children in England’s non-selective secondary schools, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw says.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-22873257

It’s always wise to be slightly suspicious of sweeping conclusions based on narrow statistics. The advent of League Tables pushes schools to achieve certain benchmarks; these are not necessarily aimed at higher achieving students. The important thing is for the government to sweep away as much red tape as possible and let the teachers teach. There is obviously a need to monitor standards and progress, and students of all ability levels need to be encouraged and given the best teaching and opportunities available.

The problem with finger pointing is that it has a very negative effect on teachers’ morale. It is an inescapable truth that demographics has a significant effect on the personality and ability of a school intake.
Teachers with more challenging students should be encouraged in their efforts rather than pigeon-holed as failing.
We need to encourage our teachers rather than setting them absolute goals that more often than not push them into the middle ground – the more gifted can be left to their own devices because they will pass the ‘C’ boundary and the lower achieving students receive more help to get them to that benchmark. This is an inevitable outcome of the league table system.