Look carefully upon the sad lesson of Britain. Don’t do what we (failed to) do, by not arresting all the Gramsco-Marxian Fabiano-pre-capitalist-barbarian people-wreckers, while we had the chance, when there were about five of them.
Subject: The marching morons – Adults stumped by primary school tests
Note: That’s what 40 years of “progressive” education achieves. RH
Adults stumped by primary school tests
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 11:08PM BST 29/06/2008 | Comments 4 | Have Your Say
The majority of adults in Britain struggle to answer questions fit for a
seven-year-old, according to a report today.
Only one-in-20 were correctly able to answer 10 questions taken from
primary school syllabuses. The study revealed that most adults were
stumped by the correct spelling of a basic word – skilful – with only 23
per cent getting it right. More than six-in-10 people quizzed also
failed to identify the planet closest to the sun.
The questions – given to 2,180 adults this month – were adapted from the
curriculum for seven to 11-year-olds in England. It will raise fresh
concerns over the standards of basic skills among the workforce.
According to the study, three per cent of adults got just one question
correct, while the average person aged over 18 rightly answered just
six. Of those failing to spell the word “skilful”, the most common
mistake was using too many ‘Ls’, researchers said. Only half were able
to identify the capital of Sweden, with many people wrongly answering
Oslo, Gothenburg or Helsinki. Some 12 per cent suggested that
Shakespeare’s first name was Walter and seven per cent said that Henry
VIII was on the throne in 1900. Adults in the North West of England were
the worst performers – correctly answering an average of three questions
– while most people in the South East and South West scored seven. Andy
Salmon, founder of thinkalink.co.uk, the general knowledge website which
carried out the research, said: “Considering that these questions could
be answered by at least a seven-year-old, you might say the test was
easy and so an average score of six out of 10 is pretty weak. It’s not
that any of the questions were particularly difficult, we have all been
taught this information, it is retaining the knowledge that is the hard
1. Which is the correct spelling? skillful, skilful, skilfull,
skillfull. (Answered incorrectly by 77%)
2. What is the playwright’s Shakespeare’s first name?
(Answered incorrectly by 12%)
3. What is the capital of Sweden?
(Answered incorrectly by 58%)
4. What is the longest river in Great Britain?
(Answered incorrectly by 48%)
5. How many sides does a heptagon have?
(Answered incorrectly by 35%)
6. What is the cube of 2?
(Answered incorrectly by 58%)
7. What are the dates of the second world war – what years did it start
(Answered incorrectly by 25%)
8. Which monarch was on the throne in 1900?
(Answered incorrectly by 39%)
9. What is the medical term for your skull?
(Answered incorrectly by 56%)
10. Which planet is nearest to the sun?
(Answered incorrectly by 63%)
7. 1939 – 1945
8. Queen Victoria
“Write ‘f*** off’ on a GCSE paper and you’ll get 7.5%. Add an
exclamation mark and it’ll go up to 11%”
“To gain minimum marks in English, students must demonstrate “some
simple sequencing of ideas” and “some words in appropriate order”. The
phrase had achieved this, according to Mr Buckroyd.
The chief examiner, who is responsible for standards in exams taken by
780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners, told The
Times: “It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some
very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and
E-mail leak of ‘degree inflation’
BBC News education reporter
A leaked e-mail shows how university staff are being urged to increase
the number of top degree grades to keep pace with competing
The internal e-mail from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) tells
staff to “bear this in mind” when they do their student assessments.
The university told the BBC this in no way related to university policy.
Last week, the higher education exams watchdog warned that the
university grading system was “rotten”.
We do not award as many Firsts and 2.1s as other comparable
institutions so there is an understandable desire to increase the
proportion of such awards
E-mail to staff at Manchester Metropolitan University
The MMU e-mail, sent to computing and mathematics staff by that
department’s academic standards manager, calls for an increase in the
number of first class and upper second degrees.
The e-mail, sent several months ago and now obtained by the BBC News
website, reveals how staff have to consider more than the quality of
students’ work – and the tension between rigorous academic standards and
universities’ external ambitions.
“As a university we do not award as many Firsts and 2.1s as other
comparable institutions so there is an understandable desire to increase
the proportion of such awards,” it says.
“Please bear this in mind when setting your second and final year
assessments, especially the latter.”
The e-mail goes on: “We have never received any external examiner
criticism that our ‘standards’ are too low so there should be quite a
lot of leeway available to us all when assessments are set.”
The e-mail also includes a joke about boosting the student satisfaction
rating. Earlier this year, staff at Kingston University
urging students to falsify their responses to improve the university’s
standing in league tables.
It says: “Please do not complain when all the BSc (Hons) mathematics
students gain first class awards next summer. Now that really would
increase our student satisfaction!”
The leaking of the e-mail provides further evidence of the concern among
academics over the pressure to manipulate degree awards to improve the
public image of universities and to make them more attractive to
The number of students achieving a first class degree at UK
has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.
Among last year’s university leavers, 61% achieved a first class or
upper second class degree.
Such is the level of concern that Phil Willis, chair of the House of
Commons select committee on innovation, universities and skills, wants
to examine the threat to higher education standards.
Manchester Metropolitan University
A spokesman said: “This is an informal comment by a member of staff
below the level of head of department to immediate colleagues.
“It is merely the interpretation of a single member of staff which
reflects the increased awareness of comparable and publicly-available
statistics, and in no way relates to university policy.
“Decisions about degree classifications are made by boards of examiners
in accordance with the university’s assessment regulations, which
specify how classifications are determined.”
This is the latest warning about university standards, following a
whistleblower’s account of postgraduate degrees being awarded to
students who could barely speak English.
This prompted thousands of academics and students to get in touch with
the BBC with their own worries – including that financial pressures were
leading universities to recruit and pass overseas students who did not
reach the adequate academic standards.
The response from BBC News website readers also included e-mails showing
how an external examiner had been persuaded to change her mind over
criticisms of a degree course.
Many have described the conflict of interest between universities’ self-
regulation on degree grades and their need to compete in league tables.
The chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency, Peter Williams,
reflected some of these concerns about an over-dependence on overseas
He was also explicit in his criticism of the current system: “The way
that degrees are classified is a rotten system. It just doesn’t work any
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/07/01 12:32:32 GMT
Twin boys sent to primary schools a mile apart
Last Updated: 8:24PM BST 29/06/2008
A mother said she is “horrified” that her twin sons will be separated
and sent to different primary schools, nearly a mile apart.
Education officials said the three-year-old boys Connor and Brad Terry
must attend separate schools due to a shortage of places. Their mother,
Samantha, 40, is battling to overturn the decision which she fears will
damage the strong emotional bond between the twins. “To read they would
go to different schools, I thought there was some mistake. I was
horrified when I was told it was not a mistake. I cannot consider the
consequences of separating the twins at such a tender age.” Born 24
minutes apart, Connor and Brad are virtually inseparable said their
mother. But she said there was no space on the application form to say
that a child was one of a twin.
As a result the boys, who want to go to Wainscott primary school, in
while Brad was ordered to attend Hilltop primary school a 15 minute walk
away from his brother. Mrs Terry, an accountant, said: “I cannot be in
two places at the same time – it’s impossible. But the computer
selects the places on a specific criteria and being a twin does not come
into it. They have been together their whole lives and the council is
ordering me to separate them.” A spokesman for Medway Council said: “The
way in which a council deals with applications for schools is set down
in law, and must comply with School Admissions Code, which Medway does.
“The family’s circumstances are extremely rare and changing the
application form to indicate twins or multiple births would not have
prevented the same outcome.”
Universities will be forced to give poor pupils preferential treatment
By Joanna Corrigan
Last Updated: 8:28PM BST 29/06/2008
Universities will be told to give preferential treatment to pupils from
poorer backgrounds under new proposal.
The plans, in a report commissioned by Gordon Brown, are likely to lead
to applicants from state schools being asked for lower A-level results
than those from private schools. Experts are already saying that the
move would damage British universities’ international standing, but the
Government is expected to publicly endorse the plans. Children from
poorer backgrounds account for only 29 per cent of all students. At
Oxford and Cambridge the level is even lower, at 9.8 and 11.9 per cent
The report, by the National Council for Educational Excellence, will
claim that applicants from state schools are being let down by the
system and recommend for “contextual data” to be considered.
Professor Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, who
drew up the report, said: “There is a massive gap in your chances of
going to higher education depending on what socio-economic group you
belong to and there has hardly been any improvement in that situation.
That is what we have to put right.”
Alan Smithers, a professor of education at the University of Buckingham
said the Government would be “instituting unfairness”. “It will get to a
perverse situation where students in state schools will not work as hard
and [the plan] will not do young people any favours at all,” he added.
David Willets, the shadow education secretary, said the move was
unnecessary: “I trust university admissions tutors to spot people with
pot-ential who might have gone to a poorly performing school.”
New diplomas will mean long journeys between schools and colleges for
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 10:27PM BST 29/06/2008
Teenagers studying for new diploma qualifications will have to travel
miles between lessons at different schools and colleges, a government
report has disclosed.
Ministers plan to spend £23 million helping pupils in rural areas get
to classes. Some will receive subsidised travel while extra buses will
be laid on, and video conferencing technology is being introduced so
students can watch lessons from their computers. This comes amid fears
over the number of teenagers opting to take the qualifications, which
are being introduced as an alternative to A-levels and GCSEs. About
40,000 were expected to sign up for the first courses, but there will be
only 20,000 this September because many schools and colleges will not be
Experts have already warned that the qualification may run into
transport difficulties . The National Audit Office claimed in December
that limited bus routes in some areas and rush-hour traffic in towns and
cities could make travelling a major problem. It said there were
“substantial logistical and practical challenges” to overcome for the
diplomas to succeed. Most courses, which will combine classroom study
with work-based training, are being offered by groups of schools and
colleges because they are too complicated for one institution alone. So
14 to 19-year-olds will be expected to travel to complete different
modules. Research published by the Department for Children, Schools and
Families found that, while existing travel arrangements would be
adequate for the first year of the diplomas, more would need to be done
in rural areas to meet future demand. It said transport problems could
stop disadvantaged pupils studying for the courses, seen as a one of the
Government’s most high-profile education reforms. Difficulties could
potentially “impact disproportionately on those groups who, through
either disability, income or motivation, will encounter travelling as a
barrier to learning”, said York Consulting’s study. Under the plans,
£20 million will be shared between the 20 most rural local authorities,
with £3 million funding transport co-ordinators in 40 areas. Jim
Knight, the schools minister, said: “Recent research on rural transport
issues vindicates our ‘no big bang’, gradual approach to introducing the
diploma. “But we must ensure that in the longer term local communities
have the right plans in place to make sure every young person can take
advantage of new courses which bring learning to life.”
GCSE students get rewarded for writing obscene insults in their English
By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 12:16AM BST 30/06/2008
GCSE students are being rewarded for writing swear words in their
English examinations, even when they have no relevance to the question.
Peter Buckroyd, chief examiner of English for the Assessment and
Qualifications Alliance (AQA), an examination board, said swear words
should gain positive marks if the spelling and punctuation is correct.
In one case a pupil who wrote a two-word obscenity in answer to the
question “Describe the room you’re sitting in”, on a 2006 GCSE paper was
given two marks out a possible 27 for the expletive, 7.5 per cent, by Mr
Buckroyd. Had he punctuated it with an exclamation mark this would have
risen to 11 per cent.
To gain minimum marks in English, students must demonstrate “some simple
sequencing of ideas” and “some words in appropriate order”. The
obscenity had achieved this, according to Mr Buckroyd. The chief
examiner, who is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000
candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners, said: “It would be
wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we
are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. “It’s
better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more
skills than somebody who leaves the page blank. “If it had had an
exclamation mark it would have got a little bit more because it would
have been showing a little bit of skill.” Mr Buckroyd says that he uses
the example to teach examiners the finer points of marking. “It
elucidates some useful points – it shows some nominal skills but no
relevance to the task.”
Ofqual, the Government’s examinations regulator, agreed with Mr
Buckroyd’s approach. A spokesman said: “We think it’s important that
candidates are able to use appropriate language in a variety of
situations but it’s for awarding bodies to develop their mark scheme and
for their markers to award marks in line with that scheme,” it said.
However a spokesman for AQA, the largest of the three examination
boards, said markers should contact them if swear words were used in an
inappropriate manner. He said: “If a candidate’s script contains, for
example, obscenities, examiners are instructed to contact AQA’s offices,
which will advise them in accordance with Joint Council for
Qualification guidelines. Expletives in a script would either be
disregarded, or sanctioned.”
Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said Mr Buckroyd’s strategy was
“taking the desire for uniformity and consistency to absurd lengths.”
Exams leave pupils ‘bored and unchallenged’
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 10:28PM BST 29/06/2008
Pupils are being left “bored and unchallenged” at school because
examinations are too mechanical, according to leading academics.
The education system – based on targets, tests and league tables – has
become increasingly “narrow” in recent years, it was claimed. Tests fail
to stretch the brightest pupils and alienate the weakest, meaning they
are more likely to drop out at the age of 16.
And the “policy emphasis on examinations” is also likely to devalue the
new diploma qualification being launched in September. The conclusions
were made by the Nuffield Review, a major inquiry led by academics from
Oxford University and the Institute of Education, part of the University
of London. But the conclusions were attacked by Jim Knight, the schools
minister, who said: “The people who have written this report need to get
out of their ivory tower and wake up to the debate that is happening
now, not one that was happening three years ago. Over 100 universities
want to take on diploma students.” The latest report called for GCSEs
and A-levels to be replaced by a single English baccalaureate that would
be taken by all pupils. It said A-levels and GCSEs alienated students
failing to achieve five A* to C grades. They also failed to provide
sufficient challenge for high-fliers. “Learners of all abilities, who do
remain in this route because of its status and progression
opportunities, are often unchallenged and bored. All of this amounts to
a systemic ‘crisis’ of general education,” said the report.
Baccalaureates are broad-based advanced-level qualifications widely used
in Europe, the report said. Wales has its own version at three levels,
and a baccalaureate in languages and science will be available in
from the IoE, said that ministers were scared to abolish GCSEs or
A-levels because parents saw them as a gold standard. “Parents see that
their children get the grades, but what they do not see is what their
children are missing out on when they are driven through 10 examinations
at 16 and three to four A-levels up to 18,” said Dr Hodgson. But the
report said the Government’s flagship diplomas – combining academic
study with work-based training – would fail to meet pupils’ needs. Many
independent schools have already rejected the new qualification as not
challenging enough, they said.
English GCSEs without reading a novel
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 1:27PM BST 27/06/2008
Pupils will be able to get a GCSE in English without reading a novel,
according to the qualifications regulator.
They will be expected to study travel brochures, magazines and
biographies under the new-style “functional” GCSE. The qualification – a
third English course option for students who shun traditional English
literature and English language – is designed to develop students’
“understanding of language use in the real world”. It will allow pupils
to keep their options open and will be particularly appealing to
schoolchildren speaking English as a second language, it is claimed.
But teachers warned that it may create a two-tier system – with weak
students studying the new generic GCSE while the brightest take
established courses. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
published draft syllabuses for three new courses in English, mathematics
and information and communication technology (ICT). GCSEs in the
subjects will be introduced in 2010. A draft syllabus for English
describes the course as a “practical alternative” to taking two GCSEs in
English language and literature – appealing to students who “might not
wish to tackle the reading” in the traditional courses. The GCSE will
“promote real-life contexts for skills learnt in the classroom”, said
the QCA. “Students will be expected to show, in speaking and listening,
their awareness and understanding of variety and adaptation in their own
and others’ spoken language, and that they are able to make appropriate
choices in real-life situations,” according to a consultation document.
Pupils will be assessed on their ability to speak and listen in standard
English, including reading non-fiction and analysing writers’ linguistic
skills. But a reduction in the amount of fiction studied by GCSE
students is likely to alarm traditionalists. Tim Shortis, from the
National Association for the Teaching of England, said the two existing
English courses would be seen as an “elite” route. In the new ICT
course, pupils will be expected to learn about internet security and the
“legal, social and environmental” impact of modern technology.
Nappy curriculum ‘to be watered down’
By John Bingham
Last Updated: 10:28AM BST 30/06/2008
Parts of the Government’s so-called “nappy curriculum”, requiring
nursery-age children to write their names, are to be watered down, it
has been claimed.
Children’s minister Beverley Hughes is expected to bow to concerns that
the targets could be too challenging for some children and
counterproductive. The Times reported that she would announce changes to
the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to the House of Commons later.
The move comes after the Government’s Early Education Advisory Group
said it had “grave concerns” about aspects of the EYFS.
In a letter written in February the panel said it feared the literacy
targets would leave some children, especially those from disadvantaged
backgrounds, “confused and demotivated”. The letter called for some of
the targets to be removed or put back a year. The EYFS – dubbed the
“nappy curriculum” – sets 69 targets including holding a pencil and
attempting writing. One target calls for pre-school children to “write
their own names and other things such as labels and captions, and begin
to form simple sentences, sometimes using punctuation”. The EYFS, which
is due to become law in September, will apply to 25,000 nurseries and
child care settings in England. Last month the Independent Schools’
Council – more than 900 of whose members have nursery or other
pre-school facilities – attacked the plans as an unjustified assault on
The Department for Children Schools
not a formal curriculum and says exemptions are possible. ??
Education policy ‘leaving children intellectually impoverished’
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 12:12AM BST 01/07/2008
Education policy in England is leading to the “cultural and intellectual
impoverishment” of a generation of school children, a leading
headmistress has warned.
The introduction of new-style courses – teaching children how to use
English and mathematics in the work place – has been at the expense of
academic rigour, said Bernice McCabe, head of the independent North
London Collegiate School
She said children’s enjoyment of subjects at school had taken a back
seat in recent years as ministers use education as a vehicle to boost
their basic skills.
Mrs McCabe, whose school gained the best A-level results in the country
in last year’s Daily Telegraph league table, condemned the “woolliness”
of the present system in which subjects were “relegated to the bottom of
The comments were made at an annual summer school for teachers – staged
by a charity founded by the Prince of Wales. The Prince’s Teaching
Institute was established in 2002 to encourage staff to rediscover their
passion for subjects, such as English, history, geography and science.
Mrs McCabe, the course director, said it was “not always easy” for
teachers to focus on academic subjects because of political
interference. It comes just days after it emerged that schoolchildren
will be able to study travel brochures, magazines and biographies under
a new-style “functional” GCSE. The course – an alternative to
traditional English literature and English language – is designed to
develop students’ “understanding of language use in the real world”. But
Mrs McCabe said: “By far the most serious consequence of this emphasis
on functionality in education policy is that it may lead to the cultural
and intellectual impoverishment of a generation of school children.
“Certainly one of the regular conclusions of our previous summer schools
has been that pupils are encouraged by being challenged, that it is
possible for them to enjoy ‘difficult’ and that problem-solving can be
popular. By having high expectations and ensuring that all pupils,
irrespective of their backgrounds, are taught the aspects of our
subjects that we most value rather than those that are immediately
accessible, we can raise standards. “I believe strongly that academic
standards are also improved by offering more ambitious and challenging
lessons, rather than those that are merely ‘relevant’ and accessible.”
She highlighted the Government’s Every Child Matters policy, which
attempts to bring health, education and social services policies under
one policy banner. Ministers say that, under the reforms, all children
should become “successful learners, confident individuals and
responsible citizens”. Mrs McCabe said: “It is hard to quarrel with any
aspect of these aspirations except the most important one: their
woolliness.” She insisted subjects had been “relegated to the bottom of
the pile” and labelled as “statutory expectations” in the Every Child
Matters policy. The Prince’s summer school, staged at Cambridge
geography. The charity said the preoccupation with teaching skills may
be harming children’s understanding of global issues such as population
growth and climate change. Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, is due to
address the conference. A spokesman for the Department for Children,
Schools and Families said: “We agree that children should enjoy learning
for learning’s sake and we provide pupils with a wide varied curriculum.
“Young people learn about major moments in British history such as the
two world wars, study our great historical figures and their works such
as Shakespeare and enjoy more sport than ever before. However, we make
no apology for placing an emphasis children mastering the basics in
maths and English. This allows them to learn more quickly and easily in
Ofsted: Foreign languages pupils struggle to hold conversations
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 11:27PM BST 30/06/2008
Schoolchildren are struggling to hold conversations in foreign languages
as lessons have become little more than an exercise in memorising
sentences, according to Ofsted.
Many pupils are unable to speak in “unrehearsed situations” because they
are too reliant on textbooks, it warns. In the worst classes, students
pronounce French, Spanish and German in an English accent as poor
pronunciation goes “unchecked” by teachers. The lack of emphasis on good
speaking and independent writing has fuelled huge fall in the number of
pupils studying languages in English secondary schools.
Last year, just 48 per cent of 16-year-olds sat a GCSE in French, German
or Spanish – compared with eight in 10 when Labour came to power. The
slump followed a Government decision to allow 14-year-olds to drop
languages for the first time in 2004. In 2007, the proportion of pupils
doing French fell for the eighth year in a row, to just 28.7 per cent,
while German dropped to 11.5 per cent. Languages are now being made
compulsory at primary school to boost enthusiasm for the subject at a
younger age. But Ofsted, the education watchdog, said the reforms should
be accompanied by more challenging lessons at secondary school, saying
many pupils see them as either too hard or “uninteresting and lacking
relevance”. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said:
“Learning a foreign language equips pupils with invaluable skills and
can also be a very enjoyable experience. Yet many young people are not
reaching their full potential, or are deterred from continuing to study
languages, because of the way they are taught. One of the ways we can do
this is to strengthen pupils’ speaking skills so that they have the
confidence to converse independently not only in the classroom but in
other situations too.” The new report – based on inspections of schools
than a third of secondaries. Many students in the weakest classes lacked
confidence, expression and fluency – especially “outside the controlled
conditions of an exercise set in class”. “Consequently, too few students
could speak creatively, or beyond the topic they were studying, by
making up their own sentences in an unrehearsed situation,” according to
the report. Between the ages of 11 and 14, schools often relied on
teaching syllabuses they knew would come up in exams, even though
sticking to the textbook was “often a feature of mundane and unexciting
teaching”, Ofsted said. Many lessons also relied too much on using
English – instead of focusing on the foreign language in question. In a
further conclusion, inspectors said that mixed ability lessons tended to
focus on mid-range pupils, which ignored the needs of the most able. At
primary level, the report said languages were well taught in around half
of schools, although headteachers did not always provide enough time for
the subject in the timetable. Ofsted also said secondary schools were
taken by surprise if pupils arrived aged 11 with a grasp of languages.
Physics teaching under threat in England’s schools
By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 7:42PM BST 30/06/2008
The future of physics lessons in England’s schools is under threat
because of a growing lack of people training to teach the subject, a
report has warned.
New research has found that almost one in four secondary schools in
physics teacher training courses have slumped by 27 per cent in the last
year. And half of physics teachers have only a GCSE or A-level in the
subject despite being expected to prepare pupils for university, the
The report, by experts at the University of Buckingham, revealed that
more physics teachers are currently retiring than are being replaced by
experts in the subject. It questioned whether schools would be able to
deliver the government’s pledge on bright pupils’ entitlement to study
physics as an individual subject. The report also cast doubt over
whether the government’s target for a quarter of science teachers to be
physics specialists by 2014 would be met. Author Dr Pamela Robinson
said: “It is difficult to be sure whether the government is on course to
recruit enough physics teachers because it is working to a long-term
target which is hard to pin down and is relying on shaky data.” Analysis
of the Graduate Teacher Training Registry suggests that while 30 per
cent of science teacher trainees in 1983 were physics specialists, by
2007, that figure was just 12 per cent. The study found that retiring
teachers of the subject now outnumber new recruits by 26 per cent. The
figures suggest that independent schools are most likely to attract the
cream of physics trainees. In 2005-06, 22 per cent of those recruited to
independent schools had firsts, compared with 13 per cent going to the
state sector. Inner city schools are the worst off, with around a half
now having general science teachers rather than subject specialists. The
University of Buckingham
led the research, said: “One of the problems is that a lot of science
teaching is now through the combined sciences. “Anyone with a science
background can therefore be teaching the whole science curriculum. It’s
a deterrent to physicists who don’t want to be teaching biology.” From
September, any child who performs well in tests for 14-year-olds will be
entitled to study physics as an individual subject, the government has
Science ‘one grade harder’ than arts at A-level
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 11:28PM BST 30/06/2008
Students are being encouraged to study “easy” A-levels such as media
studies at the expense of tough science-based subjects to get better
grades, according to academics.
In a new study researchers analysed nearly a million exam results and
found those taking drama, sociology or media studies were awarded one
grade higher than students of the same ability studying sciences.
Students taking English, religious studies or business studies gained at
least three-quarters of a grade compared to those taking tougher
subjects. Academics say the findings explain why many sixth-formers shun
physics, biology and chemistry – because they are less likely to get top
grades in these subjects.
The conclusions – in a study by Durham University – come just days after
250,000 teenagers completed A-level examinations in England. In recent
years, there have been fears that the economy may be under threat as
students shun subjects such as science or languages. Since the mid-90s,
the number of sixth-formers taking media, film and TV studies has
increased by almost 250 per cent, while PE and psychology entries more
than doubled. Dr Robert Coe, from Durham‘s curriculum, evaluation and
management centre, said there were fears schools and colleges pushed
students towards soft subjects to inflate their positions on national
league tables. He called for a different marking system for the “harder”
subjects – raising the possibility of a scaling system with some
subjects worth more than others. “I can’t see how anyone could claim
that all A-levels are equally difficult,” he said. “If universities and
employers treat all grades as equivalent they will select the wrong
applicants. A student with a grade C in biology will generally be more
able than one with a B in sociology, for example. “The current system
provides a disincentive to schools to promote take up of sciences while
league tables treat all subjects as equal. “It also puts pressure on
students to take particular subjects which may not be best
educationally. I know students and schools will try to make the right
choices, but we should have a system where the incentives support doing
the right thing, not act against it.” The findings also fuel claims of
an emerging gulf between independent and state schools in England – as
fee-paying pupils take tougher science or language courses while those
in comprehensives increasingly opt for arts-based subjects. Some
universities – such as Cambridge and the London School of Economics –
have already drawn up lists of subjects they claim are not academically
rigorous enough. Candidates taking more than one A-level in areas such
as media studies, dance, sports studies and travel and tourism are
unlikely to be given a place. In the new report, commissioned by the
Institute of Physics
Education), academics compared results in 28 subjects. They also
analysed data relating to students of similar prior ability taking
different courses. Researchers said a student choosing media studies
instead of English literature could expect to improve results by half a
grade. And picking film studies over history would improve marks by more
than a grade at A-level. Academics said the gulf in subject difficulty
had been the same since the 1970s. The conclusions came as the Royal
Society of Chemistry also claimed students were being set “simplistic”
exam questions. Money has been invested to improve the teaching of
shortage subjects – such as science, technology, engineering and maths –
but this has been undermined by examiners who are setting standards
aimed at the weakest students, they said.
???Note: Indefensible where public money is funding the school. RH
Jewish school is cleared of bias
A Jewish school has been cleared of an accusation that its entry
criteria racially discriminated against an 11-year-old boy it refused to
The JFS in north-west London
regarded as Jewish, the High Court heard.
The boy – named in court only as M – has a Jewish father. His mother
converted to the Jewish faith before he was born but had been a Roman
Mr Justice Munby ruled that its entry policy was “entirely legitimate”.
‘Not Jewish enough’
The state-maintained JFS, formerly the Jews’ Free School
It gives preference to applicants whose “Jewish status” is confirmed by
the United Synagogue.
In the eyes of the United Synagogue the 11-year-old was not Jewish
because his mother was not accepted as Jewish.
His family’s lawyer Dinah Rose QC accused the school of applying an
application test “not based on faith but wholly or partly on ethnic
M’s father told the court that he was “appalled” that his son had been
declared “not Jewish enough” to attend the school.
‘Proportionate and lawful’
The judge said that the kind of admissions policy in question was “not
materially different from that which gives preference in admission to a
Muslim school to those who were born Muslim, or preference in admission
to a Catholic school to those who have been baptised”.
“But no-one suggests that such policies, whatever their differential
impact on different applicants, are other than a proportionate and
lawful means of achieving a legitimate end,” he added.
The judge said a decision against the school could have rendered
unlawful “the admission arrangements in a very large number of faith
schools of many different faiths and denominations”.
The British Humanist Association supported M’s application for judicial
Story from BBC NEWS:
Ed Balls attacks primary schools over tests
by James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 8:38PM BST 02/07/2008
Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has launched a public attack on primary
schools for distressing seven-year olds over SAT exams.
Mr Balls accused some teachers of “stressing” children by giving them
advance warning that they are to be tested. The minister’s comments, in
a magazine interview, drew accusations of hypocrisy, since the
Government has repeatedly rejected calls to scrap mandatory national
testing for primary school children. Under the government’s testing-led
regime, all pupils are forced to sit exams at seven, 11 and 14. The
results are used to rank schools’ performance.
Mr Balls said that in the case of seven-year-olds, pupils should not be
told in advance that they will are about to sit the tests. But said that
many schools do let parents know about tests in advance, something he
said can unduly upset children.
“It doesn’t happen in every school. It’s totally the wrong way of doing
things,” Mr Balls said in an interview with New Statesman, which is due
to be published on Thursday. “No seven-year-old should ever know they
are doing SATs,”
He said: “The best headteachers will ensure that no six or
seven-year-old knows they are doing SATs. I promise you that is the
case. If you are telling pupils in Year 2 that they are doing SATs next
week then that’s the wrong thing to do. You should not be stressing the
Asked about those schools that do warn pupils in advance, Mr Balls said:
“I feel as angry as you about that. I cannot believe they are doing
that. They should not be doing that.” The minister insisted that the
tests for seven-year-olds need not be stressful or traumatic, and can
even be carried out without any of the formal trapping of a traditional
examination. He said: “They don’t need to do the SATs in a sit-down
environment. It’s something that can be done as part of the school day.
Honestly. And there are loads of schools doing that.” David Laws, the
Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, accused Mr Balls of hypocrisy for
his comments. He said: “Teachers and parents will find it laughable that
the Secretary of State is attempting to blame the schools for what is
quite clearly a problem of the Government’s own making.” “Many
headteachers feel that they are one set of bad test results away from
dismissal so it is hardly surprising that they take the tests so
seriously.” Earlier this year, the Schools Committee of the House of
Commons called for SATS to be scrapped, partly because of the adverse
effects on children’s mental health. And last year, a two-year inquiry
led by Cambridge University
children increases “anxiety and stress” and undermines standards. Test
results are employed in national league tables and Ofsted reports, with
schools facing possible closure for failing to improve results. Head
teachers say that some schools spend almost half of all lesson time
preparing for tests in the final four months of the year.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the exams watchdog, says
that in eight out of 10 primary schools the time spent on exam
preparation has increased over the past decade.???
Schools leaving children ‘globally illiterate’
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 1:19PM BST 03/07/2008
Young people are being left “globally illiterate” as school fails to
prepare them for the wider world, according to a new study.
Half of children believe people of different backgrounds and cultures
should not live in the same country, it is claimed. And a fifth of
teenagers have never discussed worldwide news stories or problems, such
as the crisis in Zimbabwe
conclusions – in an Ipsos MORI survey for education charity DEA – will
raise fresh fears that some subjects are being squeezed because of the
demands of national tests.
Hetan Shah, DEA chief executive, said: “In secondary schools there seems
to be an overwhelming focus on getting pupils through the tests.
Teachers are finding it more and more difficult to bring in some of
these wider issues. “I’ve heard of incidences of children going into
schools and saying ‘What’s going on in Zimbabwe‘, and the teacher saying
they don’t have time to get into those issues.” Mr Shah said he was
“surprised” by the results of the poll, especially the number of young
people who were not happy about different people living together in the
same country. It comes despite a huge rise in the number of immigrants
over the last 10 years. Since September 2007, schools have had a
statutory duty to promote race relations and religious tolerance as part
of new “community cohesion” rules. But a study published earlier this
year said it was being treated with a “strong element of distrust” in
some schools, who said it was “yet another requirement” on their time
with little extra funding. The survey, which questioned 1,955 pupils
from 82 middle and secondary schools in England
a G8 meeting next week. Mr Shah called on the Government to make world
issues a central part of education, saying employers were no longer
interested in individuals with a “little England” mentality. “The
Government wants young people to have a ‘world class’ education but a
key question is whether it is preparing them for the world,” he said.
“Ahead of the G8 meeting to discuss world issues, we need to face
reality. An education system that leaves English children globally
illiterate, without a basic understanding of world events or problems
and intolerant towards those from different backgrounds is one that sets
children up to fail.” On Monday, former cabinet minister David Blunkett
will chair a DEA event which brings together various organisations to
discuss the implications of the research.
Private school charity test demeaning, says headmaster
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 8:36PM BST 02/07/2008
New rules forcing fee-paying schools to open up to poor pupils have been
branded “demeaning” by a leading headmaster.
The reforms – which require private schools to prove their public
benefit – are breeding “resentment” in the independent sector, said
Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, Berkshire
Government should devote more time to improving state education than
imposing restrictions on fee-paying schools. The comments come amid
growing concerns over new Charity Commission guidelines.
Under the rules, fee-paying schools no longer have an automatic right to
call themselves charities. The Commission will have the power to strip
schools of tax breaks – collectively worth £100 million a year – if
they fail to prove they benefit people other than those able to afford
fees. Officials have said they should offer more bursaries to pupils
from poor homes, A-level master-classes and share playing fields or
theatres with local state schools. Giving evidence to the Commons public
administration committee, Dr Seldon said such strong-arm tactics were
unnecessary – insisting that many working class parents were already
paying over-the-odds for a private education. He said the implication
that schools should only help poor pupils for “fear that they may lose
charitable status” was “patronising at best and demeaning at worst”. “It
has provoked quite a lot of resentment in the sector because a lot has
been going on for a long time,” he said. “I went to Tonbridge [School]
40 years ago and there was a great deal of work being done of a
charitable nature.” He said some families were making “sacrifices to
send their children to independent schools”. “I think that should be
factored into the equation – the sacrifices that parents are making
paying twice,” he said. “They are paying through taxes for other middle
class parents to have a free education, often at chichi state schools.
“Secondly, they’re paying what we are told very high prices at
independent schools and thirdly, they now seem to be being asked to
contribute to funds for bursaries.” Earlier this year, the Commission
published a report outlining the broad principals of public benefit.
They are now working on more detailed rules about how it will affect
independent schools – with a consultation on the guidance ending next
month. The Commission is likely to call for independent schools to offer
more free places for pupils whose parents cannot afford to pay. But Dr
Seldon said he did not see bursaries as a “panacea”. “They pluck out the
brightest and best from state schools, put them into independent schools
and independent schools can then boast of these great people,” he said.
“That seems to be depriving state schools of their future leaders, their
orchestras, choirs, teams, academic societies, school captains, etc etc.
“The message given to the state schools is actually that you’re somehow
not quite good enough to deal with the very best in society. That’s
pretty sort of dismissive isn’t it to those schools and the parents and
pupils and teachers in those schools?
“I can see a role for bursaries certainly and my current school,
He urged the Government to devote more energy to improving state
schools, saying parents would not opt for the independent sector “if the
state sector was good”. “That’s what I would be doing if I was in the
Labour government,” he said.
Academic to be disciplined for offering extra lessons
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 3:51PM BST 03/07/2008
An academic is facing disciplinary action for giving his students extra
tuition in his spare time.
Bernard H Casey ran the refresher session to give undergraduates
additional help at the end of an economics course. But now he has been
warned by Birkbeck, University of London
university rules – and may have had a “detrimental impact” on students.
Dr Casey, an economics lecturer, has been summoned to an official
disciplinary hearing where he faces an official reprimand.
Fellow academics branded the action “ludicrous” and said universities
were becoming bogged down in bureaucracy. The row erupted when senior
staff at Birkbeck decided to cut Dr Casey’s course in quantitative
economic methods from 24 to 22 weeks. He decided to offer students an
extra session at the end of the course to go over any outstanding
questions – and asked officials at Birkbeck for room for up to two
hours. But he was told by a senior manager that he must stick to the
designated 22 sessions allocated for the module. Dr Casey told Times
Higher Education magazine: “The reply was ‘no’. I talked to the students
and said, look, this is a bit silly, but let’s hold a session anyway. A
colleague arranged a room, and we went along and did it.” But when
officials at the university found out they launched an investigation. A
series of emails passed between Dr Casey and senior staff reveal how he
has now been ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing. He was told: “The
purpose of this meeting is to establish if your decision to hold a
revision class was in violation of instruction from line management. In
addition the investigation will consider the potential detrimental
impact on the students taking the course.” Senior managers also demanded
to know how many students took part and what costs were involved. Dr
Casey refused to name students at the “illegal” class. He insisted he
had incurred travel costs “and purchased a cup of tea”, but would not
make an expenses claim. The decision to pursue disciplinary action is
thought to have been motivated by his refusal to follow university
rules. Dr Casey, who actually works at another university and teaches
part-time at Birkbeck, said: “The problem with Birkbeck is that it’s
stacking itself up with extraordinary amounts of admin staff and
reducing teaching staff, but that’s a standard story these days,”
Birkbeck refused to comment while disciplinary procedures continued. But
other academics said the move underlined the extent to which lecturers
were being undermined by bureaucracy. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt,
said: “Education professionals consistently top tables of the most
unpaid overtime put in each year. The dedication of staff to their
subject and their students, whilst often exploited, remains astonishing.
We cannot build a world class education sector on the exploitation of
staff, but to suggest we punish, rather than reward, those who continue
to show such dedication is ludicrous.”
Tax all graduates, says former education minister Baroness Blackstone By
Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 9:07AM BST 04/07/2008 |
Comments 23 | Have Your Say
Former students should pay a “graduate tax” for decades after leaving
university, according to a former Labour education minister.
The charge should be levied on all graduates to enable more
schoolchildren to stay in education beyond the age of 18, it was
claimed. Baroness Blackstone, an education minister between 1997 and
2001, admitted such a move would prove hugely unpopular. But she
insisted that she would be willing to pay such a charge – 40 years after
graduating from the London School of Economics.
The comments come amid growing concerns over the lack of financial
backing for British universities compared to those in the United States.
Even leading institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge struggle to match
funds reaped by institutions such as Harvard, which sits on generous
endowments from wealthy graduates. Last month, Oxford launched a
campaign to raise £1.25 billion to enable it to stand “on its own feet”
– and not be forced to rely on Government funds. Baroness Blackstone,
Labour peer and vice-chancellor of Greenwich University, insisted
British universities also needed to draw on the financial muscle of
former students – even those graduating decades earlier. At a conference
on higher education funding in London, she said: “I think there’s a very
good argument for a graduate tax, and there’s even an argument for
introducing a graduate tax on people like me who graduated many years
ago. “Everyone in this room who graduated, wherever it was, has
benefited from the advantages of higher education, and I would be
prepared to put a bit back.” She acknowledged that such a move would be
almost politically impossible. Plans for a graduate tax have been raised
in the past, but rejected after widespread opposition.
In 2006, the Government introduced so-called “top up” fees, with
students required to pay up to £3,000-a-year in tuition costs. Many
already face years of debt after graduating as they pay off student
loans running into five-figures. Figures published last year showed
students faced average debts of £21,500 after a three-year degree
Neil Gorman, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, told the
same conference that universities may have to branch out into other
areas to raise more money. In the US, one university is already
considering opening a retirement home on campus to bring in extra cash,
“Why would you do that?” he said. “Well, they have the land and the
sports facilities, they have physiotherapists and psychologists – they
have within the university all the services that are required in
retirement.” According to Times Higher Education magazine, he stopped
short of suggesting UK
they needed to use their facilities in more innovative ways.
Help cut obesity rates, Ed Balls tells schools
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 5:49PM BST 03/07/2008
Schools and local councils will have a duty to cut obesity rates, stamp
out gang membership and cut drug abuse under new Government plans.
They will be expected to spot signs of pupils going off the rails as
part of proposals to promote child “wellbeing”. Ed Balls, the Schools
Secretary, said they would be expected to team up with health centres,
police and social services in a “moral obligation” to ensure all
children “have the chance to fulfil their potential”. It comes despite
fears from headteachers that education could suffer as schools are
expected to act as surrogate parents.
This week, Bernice McCabe, head of North London Collegiate School
condemned the “woolliness” of present Government policy – insisting
children’s enjoyment of traditional academic subjects at school had
taken a back seat in recent years. Draft proposals outline 31 new ways
schools can promote pupil happiness. They cover health, education, child
safety, race relations and employment prospects. A consultation document
said teachers should be “creating an environment in the school which
promotes good physical health, including healthy weight, for example by
ensuring that school meals are healthy and appetising and that there is
a policy agreed with parents on healthy packed lunches”. It said schools
could also keep pupils’ weight down by promoting “physical activity
through sport, dance, active play for young children, and encouraging
walking to school”. Councils should consider creating more school-based
health centres for children, the document said, which may include more
sexual health units. And it said teachers had a duty to impose “good
order and discipline” by creating a culture of “mutual respect” among
children. Draft guidance said schools should be more vigilant if it
suspects children are in trouble. “Are there problems for example with
young people and gang activity, or alcohol or drugs which the school
should be working with others to tackle?” it said. “Are there specific
issues with local levels of obesity, teenage pregnancy or sexual health?
Is the well-being of pupils being adversely affected by a high level of
family breakdown in the local community?” John Dunford, general
secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“Schools have always regarded the development of the whole child as a
central part of their role, but for some children schools cannot do this
without the active support of other local services.”
Art and computing students face higher unemployment risk
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 7:10PM BST 03/07/2008
Students taking creative arts degrees and computing courses are 50 times
more likely to be left unemployed than those studying medicine,
according to official figures.
One-in-12 graduates from courses including fine art, drama, dance and
music were not in work or further study six months after leaving
university. The unemployment rate grew to one-in-10 among students
taking computer science courses, such as software engineering and
artificial intelligence. In comparison, just 10 out of 5,785 students
graduating with a medicine degree last summer was out of work – an
unemployment rate of 0.17 per cent.
The data – published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency – come
amid fears of a shortage of well-qualified scientists as students drop
“hard” courses at school in favour of so-called “soft” subjects. This
week, leading academics said students were being pushed onto A-level
courses such as media studies and art because they are more likely to
get good grades than physics, chemistry and mathematics. The latest
figures showed five per cent of students who finished degree courses at
British universities in 2007 were unemployed six months later – a slight
fall compared to six per cent last year. A quarter of students were
taking postgraduate courses – or doing a combination of employment and
training. But unemployment rates differed hugely between courses, with
880 out of 9,080 students completing computing degrees out of work.
Researchers found that graduates taking foundation degrees – shorter
work-based courses – were slightly less likely to be unemployed than
those on longer courses.
Figures also show that graduates leaving full-time degree courses earn
an average salary of £20,000.
But the figures were criticised by the University and College Union,
which represents academics. It warned unemployment among graduates was
slightly higher than the national average – and graduate salaries were
lower. It comes just 12 months before ministers prepare to review the
system of £3,000-a-year student “top-up” fees. Sally Hunt, UCU general
secretary, said: “With the top-up fees review due next year, we hope the
Government will avoid making the kind of outlandish claims about
graduate benefits that it did when arguing in favour of top-up fees.
“These figures show that students, or potential students, who believe a
degree is a guaranteed passport to riches are in for a shock, especially
with record levels of debt to contend with on graduation.” But Bill
Rammell, higher education minister, said: “Graduates can expect to earn
considerably more over their careers than those without a degree, with
the average graduate earning comfortably more than £100,000 over their
lifetime, in today’s valuation and net of tax, compared to someone who
just has A-levels.”
From The Times
June 4, 2008
Imperial College ditches A levels and sets its own entrance exam
Alexandra Frean, Education Editor
One of Britain’s leading universities is to introduce an entrance exam
for all students applying to study there from 2010 because it believes
that A levels no longer provide it with a viable way to select the best
Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, London
grade inflation at A level meant that so many students now got straight
As that it had become almost “worthless” as a way of discriminating
between the talented and the well drilled.
Last year one in four A-level marks was a grade A and 10 per cent of A-
level students achieved at least three As.
“We can’t rely on A levels any more. Everybody who applies has got three
or four As. They [A levels] are not very useful. The International
Baccalaureate is useful but again this is just a benchmark,” Sir Richard
He added: “We are doing this not because we don’t believe in A levels,
but we can’t use the A level any more as a discriminator factor.” The
move will make Imperial, which specialises in science and engineering
and ranks third in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge in The Times Good
University Guide, the first university to introduce a university-wide
entrance exam since Oxford
Some universities, including Imperial, use entrance tests to select
students for medical schools and both Oxford and Cambridge use specific
subject-based entrance tests for certain degree courses. But there is no
other institution in the UK
Sir Richard said that the test would be piloted this summer for use in
selecting students for entry in 2010 to Imperial, which has 12,000 full-
time students. Apart from candidates for medical degrees, who must sit
an entrance test called the BMAT, all Imperial applicants will sit the
same exam regardless of which subject they intend to study.
The tests would seek to examine students for their innate ability and
problem solving skills rather than subject knowledge. “We are going to
have entrance exams that will test ability. We are looking for students
who really will benefit from an IC education. The examination will look
for IQ, intelligence, creativity and innovation and will not be too
dependent on rote learning,” Sir Richard said.
But he added that students would not be able simply to stop doing
A_levels, as the university would still require evidence that they had
studied their chosen subjects in depth.
Sir Richard said that Imperial had been in talks with other universities
about the entrance test and suggested that eventually it may be
He also told the Independent Schools’ Council annual conference in
state education system, which educated 93 per cent of pupils. He
suggested that the Government should offer scholarships to enable the
brightest pupils to attend fee-paying schools.
“We have got to do something radical if we are to save the children in
our schools who are just not getting the education they deserve. We have
in this country one of the best secondary educations in the world, but
only a few percentage of people benefit from it,” he said.
Imperial’s new exam is bound to increase pressure for the introduction
key qualification for university entrance.
A level facts
246,675 A levels out of 744,675 taken last year were in so-called softer
20 A-level subjects are regarded by Cambridge as “less effective
preparation” for its courses
14 subjects are listed by London School of Economics as “non-preferred”.
Students are advised against applying with more than one
23,313 A levels were taken in media, film or TV studies last year
70 British schools offer the International Baccalaureate
Sources: Times database; Department for Schools, Children and Families
Delays hit pupils’ test results
More than a million school children in England aged 11 and 14 will get
their “Sats” results late this year.
Delivery of the national curriculum test results to schools, due next
week, has been delayed by administrative chaos for at least a week.
Markers have been warning for months of problems at ETS, the firm
handling the process this year for the first time.
The National Assessment Agency says the 8 July deadline will not be met.
The government is to set up an inquiry.
In a letter to the chairman of the Commons schools select committee,
and “clearly unacceptable”.
Teachers being signed up by the company to mark the test scripts began
complaining about administrative problems months ago, and a lack of
response from the company’s telephone helpline.
‘All tests affected’
The volume of complaints rose in May, when the training process began,
and again when many test papers were delivered to markers’ homes late or
not at all. Some even received batches of the wrong scripts.
Questions were asked in the House of Commons and the qualifications
authorities said steps had been taken “to get things back on track”.
But a letter to Mr Balls from the head of the fledgling independent
regulator, Ofqual, Kathleen Tattersall, now reveals: “As you know,
earlier monitoring had indicated that marking was not progressing
And now England
testing, has said that as of Thursday 10% of the Key Stage 2 tests –
taken by 10 and 11-year-olds at the end of primary school – had not been
The process of marking Key Stage 3, the tests taken by 13 and 14-year-
olds in the third year of secondary school, was said to be even less
The problems afflict all three test subjects – English, maths and
science – but are said to be worst in English.
The NAA has said there is no issue with the quality of the marking, it
simply has not been done in time.
It said schools would continue to receive marked scripts back in the
post, but the online publication Key Stage 2 results would be delayed
until 15 July.
Marking of Key Stage 3 results would not be complete by then, but
available results would be released by the end of that week so as many
schools as possible had them before the end of term.
“The main causes of this delay are the lateness in the completion of the
marking process and a series of technical issues,” the NAA said.
“This is a serious failure by ETS Europe for which we apologise to
schools, pupils and parents.”
But John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers claimed: “The number of
errors in the system are enormous.”
Schools Minister Jim Knight told BBC News he had been aware of the
“I have had regular meetings with the agency responsible. They’ve given
me consistent reassurance that they would be able to meet the 8 July
deadline,” he said.
“In the last couple of weeks, they’ve expressed concerns they wouldn’t
be able to for the Key Stage 3 English – but it’s only in the last two
days that the story changed dramatically so that we lost all confidence
that we would be able to meet the Tuesday 8 July deadline.”
There have not been problems with the controversial Sats on quite so
widespread a scale before.
In 2004 the Key Stage 3 English results were eventually issued three
months late – after an extended deadline had been missed – and the then
head of the NAA resigned.
ETS Europe was awarded a five-year £156m tests marking contract by the
NAA a year ago. It has not yet commented on the latest developments.
The tests are unique to England
attainment for the children and sometimes as a basis for setting in
But they are regarded as “high stakes” primarily because schools’
average results are published in government performance tables – loathed
This prompts claims that teachers “teach to the test” as a consequence,
thereby narrowing the curriculum.
A Commons select committee has expressed concern that the inappropriate
use of national tests could be damaging.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families is piloting a possible
replacement in the form of “single level tests” that children would take
to confirm their teachers’ assessment that they had reached a higher
national curriculum attainment level.
But it says testing will stay as an important guide for parents to how
well their children and local schools are performing.
And it says statistics show that Sats results are an important indicator
of how well children will do subsequently in their GCSEs and other
public secondary school exams.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/07/04 11:56:17 GMT
ETS Europe: The company behind the marking “fiasco”
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 8:04PM BST 04/07/2008
ETS Europe won a contract in February 2007 to mark school tests for 11
The company – part of the US testing firm Educational Testing Service –
signed a £154 million, five-year contract with the Qualifications and
Curriculum Authority. In the past, marking was administered by Edexcel,
one of England
to emerge in October last year when some senior markers resigned over
new approaches to the way the so-called Key Stage tests would be marked.
By early spring this year, teachers were reporting a series of
administrative problems, including ETS failing to register their
contract details, delays in training and the failure of a vetting system
for English markers. To compound problems, completed papers were delayed
in being sent to markers.
ETS – the US-based parent company – is a non-profit making organisation
with extensive test administration experience in some 180 countries. It
provides a range of products and services across the world, including
the design, development and implementation of exams, research into
assessment and test marking.
Delay formal school lessons until 6 years old, experts say
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 8:03PM BST 04/07/2008
Children should not start formal education until the age of six ,
according to the Government’s own advisors.
The school starting age should be put back a year to allow pupils to
complete the so-called “nappy curriculum”, they said. Under the
so-called Early Years Foundation Stage, all private and state-educated
children in England
literacy, numeracy, problem-solving and even using computers and other
technology. But the Government’s Early Education Advisory Group insists
it has “grave reservations” about aspects of the curriculum.
A letter from the group – published under the Freedom of Information Act
– says the targets risk creating a “culture of deficiency” among young
children. The group, containing experts from the National Children’s
Bureau, Oxford University and the Institute of Education, told ministers
in a letter last month that to “meet Early Years Foundation Stage
principals and commitments… the EYFS should be extended until the age
of six or the end of Year 1″. At the moment, children are expected to
start school at five. The papers, obtained by the Times Educational
Supplement (TES), add: “Many reception teachers are demoralised for
themselves in their lack of success in getting children to attain these
goals, and they are aware that this situation helps to develop a culture
of deficiency for young children, identifying what they can’t do.” The
recommendations come just months before the compulsory curriculum is
forced upon all nurseries, playschools, childminders and reception
classes in September. Critics have already attacked the reforms, saying
they will give children less time to play, posing serious risks to their
long-term development. Earlier this week, the Government appeared to
signal a partial climbdown on the new rules. Beverley Hughes, the
Children’s Minister, confirmed that key literacy targets – requiring
four and five-year-olds to write their name and make decent efforts at
more complex words – may be dropped.
And for the first time, the Government said some nurseries will also be
able to opt out of part of the pre-school curriculum for at least two
Dame Gillian Pugh, chairman of the National Children’s Bureau and a
member of the advisory group, told the TES: “Those of us advising
ministers have consistently made the same points over the last six
However, the Government has consistently argued that the requirements of
the curriculum have been pitched at the correct age group. Ed Balls, the
Schools Secretary, insisted the framework was needed because many
children were in substandard pre-schools. “Children’s experiences in
the early years make a difference for years to come, and gaps open very
early on between children from richer and poorer backgrounds,” he
said. “I believe that every child in this country is entitled to the
benefits of learning through play as set out in the EYFS and that their
parents are entitled to the reassurance that their children will be well
supported and cared for by high quality childminders and nursery
Schools used as ‘social engineers’
By Rod MacKinnon, Bexley Grammar School
Last Updated: 3:04PM BST 04/07/2008
Recently the schools secretary, Ed Balls, told us that he has concerns
about nearly one in five secondary schools; he is right to be concerned
but is off target with his analysis of the problem.
Ed Balls judges educational failure based on the number of schools
failing to ensure 30 per cent of students gain five A* to C grades at
GCSE, but this benchmark is an arbitrary, unfair test. He also likes to
hold the few remaining selective schools in England
disappointments and weaknesses in some areas of the country. Again, he
Our national education system is providing a good deal for many families
but there persists a ‘muddle’ at the heart of our education system, a
disturbing lack of clarity about the purpose of school education and
about what it can achieve.
Our many successful schools secure and maintain a focus on learning,
achievement and values. They support students with high quality
teaching, they work in mutually supportive partnership with children and
their families and they have highly effective leaders at all levels in
the school. But some people in positions of influence maintain
unrealistic expectations about what schools can do for us; schools can
not solve all of society’s ills.
Children are in schools for only 8/9 hours a day, 190 days a year;
during such time children’s behaviour and attitudes will be (and should
be) influenced, but these human qualities can not be created by schools.
Teachers simply do not have the contact time to ‘create’ behaviours and
attitudes within children and we rightly select and train teachers to
teach English/Physics/History/etc.; they are not (and can not be) social
engineers and social workers and surrogate parents as well as subject
teachers all rolled into one.
Schools should present students with an education that is broad and
accessible, but at the same time learning needs to be deep, rigorous,
challenging and stimulating; it is when we get the balance of all these
elements right, that we generate the exceptional quality in provision
that we all wish to see.
Crucially, a school must be about “making a difference”, “adding value”
if you prefer. Young people need to be different as a result of their
experience at school, different not just as a consequence of the
inevitable passage of time, but different as a direct result of what the
school and its staff have done for and with them. Such achievement does
not come about without considerable effort – effort from students,
school staff and parents.
I have worked in comprehensive and selective schools in the state system
for the last twenty four years and seen many impressive schools in
action. Our high quality schools thrive in a diverse range of social and
economic environments but they tend to have things in common that are
not found at the heart of our national education system: rigorous and
ambitious clarity of purpose with a relentless focus on values,
achievement, expectations, partnership and the quality of learning.
There are those who wish to use children and schools as social engineers
with a view to creating a different society but we should not even be
trying to do such things; children need to be nurtured, educated and
cared for, not thrown into the front line of social reform. Muddled
thinking is guaranteeing failure for the noble aspirations we all
commonly hold for the education of the young.