Just as a postscript to my last blog, I attended the annual general meeting and prize-giving of the English Association last night. Got chatting with a couple of teachers, who confirmed the worries indicated in my last posting about formulaic examining. The feeling was that the gap between pupils’ educational experiences at school and what would be expected of them at university was growing. This was because, wheras in school pupils are now taught towards the exam, and guided very strongly by their teachers towards strategies which will help them accrue marks, at university independent thinking is prized. Therefore, even those with top grades canRead More →

Despite having covered this subject for more than four years now, I am constantly surprised by the extent to which teaching to the test appears to have become a defining feature of our education system. More evidence came my way during a recent seminar at the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors in London. Academics from the AQA exam board presented the findings of interviews they had conducted during the last year with 39 first year undergraduate students at Bristol and Manchester who had gained A grades in psychology and biology in last year’s A-levels. The central finding was that the students saidRead More →

What to make of this latest report? On the one hand, the recommendation that key stage 2 science tests are removed means that the number of national tests has been cut from six to two in the past 12 months. Although I’m not a critic of testing per se, clearly the tests backed by hyper-accountability are not supporting education in their current form, so this is clearly to be welcomed. In addition, there is heaps of evidence that the format of the KS2 science tests, which consist entirely of one- and two-mark questions, is a particular problem for science teaching. With pupils devoting months to questionRead More →

The National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference in Brighton captured headlines at the weekend, as heads voted overwhelmingly to ballot for a boycott of next year’s Sats tests if the Government fails to meet its demands on testing. But just as interesting, in its way, was what Ed Balls told the conference about conventional school league tables. These tables, of course, have played a large part in school life since the early 1990s. But, in a speech which was designed to placate the heads before they voted on the boycott plan, Mr Balls made a string of criticisms of the rankings. He said: “The problemRead More →