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GCSE and A-Level exams boards slammed, Uni offers in freefall crisis, COVID-19 cases UAE, Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, miraculous dogs creating happiness on tap, discounted fees and the BTEC row: WHAT MADE THE NEWS IN EDUCATION THIS WEEK?

The Schools Report brings you the official Weekly Briefing on the Hottest News in Education.

Every Friday we bring you the latest stories in education in the UAE and around the world in the last 7 days. Here’s what’s been happening this week…

This Week in Education. UAE Education News. First. Every Friday. Only from

Exam boards slammed for “atrocious” errors on GCSE and A-Level papers

Exams to be reviewed by OFQUAL to move exams online - the end of pens and paper and adaptive testing up for grabs

A leading exam board has been slammed after a GCSE geography paper named the wrong countries on a map of Africa.

Pupils were left confused after a map of Africa wrongly identified the Republic of the Congo as Gabon.

The west African state was wrongly named and identified with an arrow as part of an extended question about the continent’s top oil producing countries.

One UK secondary school geography teacher hit out at the Edexcel exam board over the ‘atrocious mistake’ in the last of three papers that students sat on Tuesday this week, saying that he feared the error could have an impact on pupils’ results.


He told MailOnline: “For a GCSE exam board to set a geography paper that contains the wrong geography is ridiculous.”

This joins multiple criticisms levied at several different exams boards for inaccurate or unfair papers – in particular, parents and students have been complaining about being tested on areas of the curriculum that they were not warned about.

Back in November it was announced that students would be given advance warning of some exam content next year because of disruption caused by Covid.

However, this has not always been accurate. Social media has been filled with complaints from parents after their children returned home after exams in tears because the paper contained questions on areas they had not been advised to revise.

AQA has released an apology about the GCSE Physics Higher Tier Paper 1, which contained a question about energy transfers and circuits. While Energy Transfers were listed in the advance information for students, Circuits were listed as not being assessed. AQA stated in a communication to schools and parents:

“To make sure students aren’t disadvantaged, we’ll be awarding everyone full marks for all parts of the question, which were worth a total of 9 marks.

We’re really sorry and we’re looking at why our checks didn’t pick this up.”

Have you been affected by inaccurate or unfair exam papers? Tell us about it at [email protected].

Star A-Level students despair at university rejections as offer rate plunges to 55%

A Guide to helping students through the pitfalls olf revision. How gto survive, excel - and be motivated when it all gets too much.

As the exam season creaks towards a close, many top students with impeccable grade predictions are still reeling from being rejected by their university choices.

A perfect storm of variables means that getting into your preferred choice of uni is harder this year than ever before.  After A-level grade inflation during the pandemic forced universities to take on more students, institutions are now retrenching in popular subjects to try and return to pre-pandemic levels. This situation has been made worse by the current economic situation:  University leaders blame the erosion of tuition fees by inflation for making it difficult for them to take on the rising numbers of school-leavers. And on top of all this, there are actually more people competing for places then ever before: University applications are up 5% this year, partly fuelled by the fact that there are literally more 18-year-olds – a result of the mid-2000s baby boom, and part of a trend set to continue for the next decade – and the fact that ithose who delayed applying because of the pandemic.

All this means the offer rate for A-level students applying to leading universities has dropped significantly, with medicine and dentistry courses even harder to get on to than in previous years, according to data from the UK’s UCAS admissions service.

Popular universities have tightened up their offers, with the proportion of applications that result in an offer down from 60.5% in 2021 to 55.1% this summer.

Meanwhile, fewer than 16% of applications to study medicine and dentistry – which are among the most competitive courses – resulted in an offer this year, down from 20.4% in 2021, leaving some of the country’s highest-achieving students disappointed.

Once again we are reminded that the legacy of the pandemic is far from over.  The first post-Covid cohort of school leavers is facing a stomach-churning summer of uncertainty that “threatens to hold back a generation”.

Read more: Offer rate for A-level students applying to top universities falls to 55% | Universities | The Guardian

Some UAE schools to offer remote learning options to students who test positive

As COVID numbers in the UAE rise once again, some schools are opting to deliver online learning for students who have to stay home due to testing positive for COVID-19.

In April, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) announced that all students in private and charter schools had to return to on-site learning from the new term, which began on April 11.

Students were exempted if they presented an attested ‘high risk’ medical report that confirms their inability to attend school in person. Students showing Covid-19 symptoms were also exempted, according to ADEK.

Neeraj Bhargava, Principal of Abu Dhabi Indian School, said to Khaleej Times on Monday that about 40 students and 20 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19 over the recent days.

“We are offering remote learning to students who have tested positive so they can attend classes from home. We don’t want them to miss out on anything for the remaining period of the term,” he said.

“The students and school staff can only be allowed back to school campus if they present a negative Covid-19 result.”

Read more: Covid in UAE: Some schools to offer remote learning options to students who test positive – News | Khaleej Times

Will BTECs be saved from extinction? Parent fightback forces a debate in UK parliament – here’s why this matters in the UAE

The clock is now ticking down on the whether BTEC will be saved. If not the futures of a whole generation of children will be damaged.

Following a SchoolsCompared article in October last year seeking to prevent the abolition of BTEC (read “Call for UK Expats to Join the Fight to Save BTECs“), the UK government has now been forced to debate the issue in the UK parliament.

A groundswell of anger at the proposed decision to effectively abolish BTECs by withdrawing funding in favour of new T Levels, saw parents and educationalists worldwide petitioning the UK government to think again. More than 108,000 signatures were recorded as the 6-month window for the petition closed in June.

In what is widely seen as a victory for parents and educationalists, the UK government is now being forced to attend the British parliament to (try and) justify its decision and respond to calls to retain BTEC’s.

Impacts stretch from putting the IB Career-related Programme at risk and destroying hundreds of subject choices for students, to further pushing students to university and an oversupply of employment with the flattening of academic graduate salaries that now come with the territory of many degrees.

Find out Why BTECs matter, the reason they’re at risk and how all this applies to students in the UAE in Jon Westley’s rousing and comprehensive story here.

New British Tier 1 premium Durham School Dubai announces incredible discounted opening fees

Durham School Dubai discounted school fees opening

Durham School Dubai has announced an offer to recognise founding families for supporting the school in its opening year.

Durham School Dubai is the third international branch of one of England’s longest established day and boarding schools, Durham School. The original school was founded in 1414 and re-founded in 1541 by King Henry VIII. Amongst the who’s who of alumni, Dominic Cummins, former Chief of Staff to Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stands out as the most notable.

Founding parents joining in Durham’s first academic term will now have the option to either:

(1) take a further 10% discount on the first year’s fees; or,

(2) enjoy a fixed discounted fee structure for three years.

This means that, for parents who opt to take the additional 10% discount, annual fees will start as low as AED 38,340 for FS1 and FS2.

Read more.

Ditch A-levels for broader, lower-stress, more vocational ‘British Baccalaureate’ with fewer exams, say influential UK lobbyists

The British education system places too much stress on exams, is bad for children’s mental health, and is not preparing students sufficiently for the world of work, according to survey conducted by UK newspaper The Times. Carried out by YouGov, the survey found that a majority of people in every political party, age group and region feel that the education system puts too much emphasis on examinations.

To address the problems with the current British education system, The Times Education Commission has called for a ‘British Baccalaureate’, which would offer a wider range of subjects at 18 while reducing the overall number of examinations pupils take, to promote mental health and help pupils to achieve their best. The work of the commission has been backed by former UK prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major, as well as many leading political thinkers and educationalists.

The Commission suggests a 12-point plan for education, the foremost of which is the British Baccalaureate, entailing broader academic and vocational qualifications at 18, with parity in funding per pupil in both routes, and a slimmed-down set of exams at 16 to bring out the best in every child. Other points include wellbeing counsellors being appointed in every school and an increase in the status of teachers, with a new category of ‘consultant teachers’ being introduced.

Read The Times Education Commission Final Report.

In pictures: A parent’s guide to what to expect at the newly opened Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai

Prepare to be amazed – it’s been a long time coming, but, finally, the incredible new Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is set to open its doors to the public this Thursday 16 June 2022.

From humanoid robot storytellers and sensory pods, to peaceful study sanctuaries, tranquil word gardens and of course literally millions of inspirational books, this unique structure is dedicated to nurturing knowledge, culture and imagination in the UAE.

Join our visual tour of what to expect here.

English universities will have to declare overseas funding

Universities in England will have to report any funding from overseas people and organisations in a proposed Freedom of Speech Bill amendment.

The government says the plan will prevent “foreign actors” from exercising undue influence.

Universities will be expected to share details of financial arrangements from specified countries like China.

They will face fines or other consequences if there is a perceived risk to freedom of speech.

Funding of more than £75,000 will have to be declared to the Office for Students, so it can report any patterns of concern.

Money from NATO and EU countries, as well as from those listed in the Academic Technology Approval Scheme such as Japan or Australia, will be exempt.

It follows concerns by MPs that universities are failing to recognise the seriousness of interference from certain countries.

In 2019, a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee highlighted concerns about the influence of China on universities, including co-ordinated efforts to block mentions of “topics sensitive to China”, such as the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square.

Read more: English universities will have to declare overseas funding – BBC News

Meet the cute canine counsellors giving exam-stressed Kent College students mental health support

In the depths of exam season, students at Kent College Dubai can often be seen taking a trip to the library during stressful moments.

But they’re not going there to read books or revise algebra…

Rather, they’re walking straight past the bookshelves, all the way to an office at the back of the library. Here is where you’ll find one of the school’s most in-demand therapists. His name is Marshall, and he’s smaller and fluffier than your average school counsellor, but he performs a very valuable job.

“Marshall is a Maltese-Bichon Frise crossbreed, and he has been great for our exam students in reducing their exam anxiety,” says Laura Channer, Kent College’s School Counsellor and the owner of Wellbeing Dog Marshall, who shares her office during school hours.

Find out all about Marshall and his fellow Wellbeing Dog, Ziggy, discover more about the purpose of Wellbeing Dogs, and watch our video here.

Opinion: “Girls’ schools are better at producing women who lead”

A recent federal election in Australia saw a record number of independent female MPs being voted in – the majority of whom, Loren Bridge points out in the Sydney Morning Herald, are the product of all-girls’ schools.

This is because all-female schooling is better at producing strong, confident women who want to lead, argues Bridge:

“In girls’ schools, students are intentionally equipped with the knowledge and skills required to overcome social and cultural gender biases, and in doing so, actively break the stereotypical norms that define women in society. This is achieved through an education that rewires the implicit biases that so often limit women.

“Women are expected to walk a tightrope between exhibiting the characteristics society expects of women and being seen to have the “strength” to lead. They are in a double bind.

“To resist this concentrated pressure, girls must be encouraged to take a leap of faith. They must leap from the tightrope and defy gendered pressure. To do this, they need the confidence to lead and be disruptors.

“A study by the University of Queensland found that confidence levels for girls in single-sex schools matches that of boys, while girls in the general population consistently demonstrate lower confidence levels than boys.

“In other words, the study found that a girls’ school provides the environment for girls to develop and maintain innate confidence and healthy self-belief. And it is confidence, or a lack of confidence, that is frequently attributed to the under-representation of women in senior leadership roles.

“Let’s be clear — girls aren’t innately less confident or assertive than boys, they aren’t less capable in maths and sciences and they certainly don’t have more body image or mental health issues than boys as infants. It is our patriarchal society that stereotypes women diminishing their self-belief and self-efficacy, quashing their voice and ultimately, their power.

“A girls’ school turns the tables on gender stereotypes, and this can be life-changing for a girl.”

Tabitha Barda’s The School Report © 2022. All rights reserved.

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About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and's The School's Report - the global weekly round up of what matters in education for parents which is published every Friday, reviewing schools across the UAE - and features on issues that really matter. You can often find Tabitha on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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