Wednesday, 16th February Two papers published this week by respected science education organisations make radical suggestions for fundamental changes to England’s exams system. Both make comments of relevance to the arguments in Education by Numbers. First, buried in a letter to Michael Gove by the Campaign for Science and Engineering – which asks some seriously probing questions about the education white paper, suggesting problems with it – is a very interesting recommendation for dealing with a regularly-made criticism of the English education system. This is the allegation that competition between exam boards can force down standards. The criticism is well-known, and runs as follows: AwardingRead More →

Tuesday, February 8th Right, I am interested in the impact of the Government’s new “English Baccalaureate” performance measure in schools, which was introduced in last month’s GCSE league tables. I wrote a piece in the Guardian  on this last month, amid widespread predictions that there would be a big effect on the curriculum offerings of at least some schools. The TES also covered the story that week, but there was some speculation (see TES analysis here ), that the true impact might be limited, with schools continuing to focus much of their energy on the established (mouthful of an) indicator measuring the proportion of children achievingRead More →

  Saturday, January 29th I think my headline more or less says it all, really. An unnamed school in East Yorkshire is said in the TES to be asking students who had already started GCSEs to switch subjects because of the new English Baccalaureate measure, included in the first time in league tables earlier this month. Scandalous, if true: the only reason a school would do this would be to look good in a league table. This underscores the mad logic of the rankings system, encouraging schools to put their own interests above those of their pupils.   See More →

Tuesday, November 23rd OK, this is just a chance to round up a few articles which have touched on the effects of results pressures on schools in the last couple of months. I have gone back over national coverage since the start of October to highlight claims of alleged side-effects caused by accountability pressures, in line with the goal of this site to try to document as many of these effects as possible. Accountability pressures are likely to change following tomorrow’s white paper. Negative effects, however, are unfortunately unlikely to go away. In no particular order, then, here are these reports: -An article in theRead More →

Tuesday, November 2nd My instinctive reaction, on learning of research published today by Bristol University’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation showing GCSE results have improved faster in England than in Wales in recent years was “surprise, surprise”. And what, exactly, does this prove? Take two school systems. Imagine that, in system A, huge effort and political attention is paid to improving schools’ results, on a few centrally-designed performance indicators. League tables are published which centre on those indicators, inspection judgements centre on them, schools which do badly are repeatedly threatened with closure, heads at such schools are very closely monitored by their local authorities,Read More →

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 I was disappointed to hear Rachel Wolf, of the New Schools Network, talking in what sounded like fairly ideological terms about “accountability” on the Today programme yesterday. Ms Wolf was being put on the spot about the ability of free schools, which the New Schools Network promotes, to employ teachers who lack Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). It was a brief interview, with frequent interruptions, but I think the thrust of her argument was fairly clear. First, she said, schools needed the flexibility to decide whom to recruit. I’m not going to discuss that point directly here. But second, she seemed to beRead More →

  Wednesday, October 20th So the funding situation for schools is getting a little clearer, after George Osborne’s spending review announcements today. There is still some way to go, though. Here are a few thoughts. First, although the funding situation for schools appears at first glance better than many were predicting – and certainly appears better than that facing universities and further education, there are several caveats. For, although Mr Osborne was able to say that the schools budget for 5- to 16-year-olds would rise in real terms every year for the next four years, this relates to only to a 0.1 per cent realRead More →

  Tuesday, October 19th Since I wrote my article on the Pupil Premium for Education Journal back in May, there have been some developments which give clues to some of the questions posed in that piece. Specifically, there is more information available in relation to a central dilemma referred to there: whether or not the pupil premium is to be paid for by cuts to Labour’s existing grant schemes, which went directly from government to schools and which have had the effect, according to the IFS’s paper which was published in May, of helping to provide much greater funding for children from deprived backgrounds. On pageRead More →

Monday, October 18th, 2010 With Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review due to include an announcement on the new “Pupil Premium”, I thought I’d post here a piece I wrote on this shortly after the general election in May. It is based on an impressively detailed paper on the Pupil Premium by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. I originally wrote it for Education Journal, for whom I write a monthly article. I intend to do another blog – possibly shorter! – by tomorrow updating the position on the pupil premium based on what has been announced since May. My Education Journal piece follows below: It was reportedly one ofRead More →

 Warwick Mansell Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 What are the feelings in schools over the decision by the NAHT’s national council not to boycott Sats tests for a second year in 2011? If the reception the move received at a meeting of heads which I addressed on Friday is anything to go by, there is a lot of anguish, and anger, out there. The meeting, for heads in a London borough, was a regular chance to discuss issues of current interest. I was there to talk about the evidence on testing and accountability, but the heads were keener after I spoke to discuss the union’s moveRead More →