EdCo News Round Up January 2020

Tackling period poverty in schools: free sanitary products to be available in England

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a scheme to provide free tampons, sanitary pads and other period products in schools and colleges in England. The initiative aims to tackle period poverty, which has been shown to be a cause of absenteeism for young people.

“We know that it is not easy for everyone to access period products where and when they need them. This scheme will deal with those problems so young people can go about their daily lives without getting caught out,” said Michelle Donelan, the children and families minister.

The DfE said that the scheme has been designed to make access to such products easy, while breaking down stigmas and raising awareness around menstruation. Amika George, the founder of Free Periods, a group that campaigns to end period poverty, stated: “We ask that schools have open conversations with students about what they need and start signing up to the scheme – no child must miss out.”

A recent survey of young adults in the UK said that 42% of 14 to 21 year-olds who menstruate said they had been in situations where they had to use ‘makeshift’ sanitary protection such as fabric, socks and paper. The National Education Union concurs: they claim that more than 137,000 pupils missed school in 2018 because of their period.

From January 20th schools have been able to order products, with the range available to the more than 20,000 schools eligible including environmentally friendly products.

Free period products to be available in schools and colleges in England (The Guardian)

DfE to finally rollout free sanitary products scheme next week (FE Week)

School to offer free tampons and sanitary towels to beat period poverty (Metro)

Free period products for all schools and colleges in England (Uk Ed Chat)

Period poverty: Schools urged to order free menstrual products (BBC)

Tackling teacher shortages: starting salary to be raised to £26k

Starting salaries for teachers in England will rise to £26,000 in September of this year. The government has also promised that this figure will reach £30,000 in two years’ time, with these changes made with the aim of attracting more graduates to, and improving the status of, teaching as a profession.

Teaching unions welcomed the news as a step in the right direction, but called for similar wage increases across the entire teaching workforce. Experienced teachers and school leaders will get a pay rise of 2.5% this year, which critics have warned will do little to stem the mass exodus of teachers from England’s classrooms.

“We are currently haemorrhaging teachers from the profession and we will never solve the teacher supply crisis unless this situation is improved,” commented Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, pointed out that the proposed 2.5% pay increase for existing teachers was likely to barely meet the level of RPI inflation. “The government should know from teachers’ reaction to previous differentiated pay increases that this announcement will create widespread dismay. With teacher retention problems worsening, this is a devastating message for experienced and dedicated teachers.”

The government claims that the wage increase represents the biggest sustained pay increase since 2005, and it expects the changes will help to retain more than 1,000 extra teachers per year by 2022/23.

Teachers to get starting salary of £26,000 from September (The Daily Mail)

DfE recommends £26k starting salaries and 2.5% rise for heads (Schools Week)

Teachers to get pay rise in attempt to boost recruitment (The Guardian)

Salaries for new teachers set to rise to £26,000 from September to tackle shortages (The Independent)

Duke of Edinburgh award shares 'experience list' designed to build character

As part of a call on the government to encourage character building in schools, the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award has drawn up a checklist of 25 experiences that could help young people grow in confidence and resilience.

The list includes activities such as trying veganism, taking a ‘digital detox’, public speaking and getting to know an older person. While the DofE acknowledges that most teenagers will be able to tick off some activities from the list already, they are asking that the government do more to support character and resilience building in schools.

The list grew out of a DofE poll that found that of a thousand teenagers surveyed, more than half (51%) had never had a part-time job and more than 2 in 5 (44%) believed they did not have enough opportunity to build confidence and resilience. One in five surveyed had never been on a walk or hike in the countryside, and more than half (52%) had never volunteered in the community.

Gold DofE award-winner Dot Hakim, 21, said the activities they completed helped them overcome serious setbacks. “I faced many personal challenges as a teenager ... These experiences are vital for young people to develop the right skills for this tough world.”

In response, the Department for Education defended its record on character education. “We want young people to be confident, healthy and equipped to deal with the challenges that come with growing up,” a spokesman said. “That is why our new relationships and health education will teach pupils from an early age the benefits of being active, spending time outdoors, community participation, and the impact of voluntary and service-based activity on their wellbeing.”

DofE scheme draws up 'experience list' to build teen resilience (The Guardian)

Duke of Edinburgh award says cooking a vegan meal is essential part of growing up (The Times)

The 25 things all teenagers should do: Duke of Edinburgh's Award staff draw up checklist of activities to help youngsters build character (The Daily Mail)