Our poor GCSE students -- victims of the whims of ignorant politicians

Francis Gilbert's picture
 93
GCSE results are out today and it's already clear that the results have been subject to political interference; clearly, our Education Secretary has a keen desire to see more students fail their exams. Students that would have got C and even B grades last year are now being awarded D grades.

How and why has this happened? No doubt Gove and co would say that it's introducing more "rigour" into the system, but in reality, it's no such thing; the GCSE results have been cynically manipulated because he has put unprecedented pressure on the exam boards and Ofqual to lower the number of students getting A*-C grades. It's all about proving a "political" point -- that he's against "grade inflation" -- rather than helping our children progress with their lives. Let's not forget that for many students failure to get 5 A*-C grades at GCSE makes a huge difference to their prospects in life; it means that they can't go onto study at Sixth Form on good courses. It can consign them to the "scrapheap". This has clearly happened to thousands of students today who were expecting to get grades that would help them thrive and become tomorrow's valued citizens. The ultimate truth about "why" this has happened is that Gove and many of his supporters have a deep-rooted fear and loathing of students from poorer backgrounds. Their phoney rhetoric about wanting more poor students at Oxbridge is a smoke-screen; they don't want the poor -- usually living in Labour-voting districts -- to succeed; they want to see them fail, they want a more socially segregated society where the poor are not properly educated, are doing "CSE"-type qualifications, and "kept in their place". This is going to be the net result of this manipulation of the GCSE grades; more affluent students will always find an escape route if they have done badly, but students from poorer backgrounds don't have this sort of back up from home. Furthermore, now that many routes for re-sitting exams have been closed off, they are going to find it impossible to have a second chance. Many of the Coalition's policies -- from the setting up of  free schools to his obsession to return to O Levels -- are ultimately about social segregation; giving students from richer backgrounds even better life-chances and resources, while leaving poorer students much worse off.

How has it happened? It appears that examiners have been instructed not to students on the border-lines between C and D grades the benefit of the doubt where they might have done in previous years. This appears to have been instruction from "on high"; of course, it will never been proved, but this is obviously what's happened.

How sad that there's such a negative atmosphere in the education system at the moment. The Coalition's education policies are truly proving catastrophic from thousands of our young people.

 
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Andrew Old's picture
Thu, 23/08/2012 - 12:25

The reduction in GCSE grades A*-Cs is 0.4%.

That's 1 in every 250 students affected. Probably not conclusive evidence that we are being divided into Eloi and Morlocks.

Andrew Old's picture
Thu, 23/08/2012 - 12:27

Sorry, 1 in every 250 exams affected.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:23

English results fell by 1.5%. If we assume a cohort of about 800,000 (is that right? does anyone know), that would be about 12,000 students who would have got a C if they'd taken the previous paper but have been given a D instead.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/08/2012 - 13:59

I have long been worried about grade inflation although the jury appears to be still out about whether this is happening. Two years ago FullFact investigated grade inflation and concluded that although pass rates had risen there was no conclusive evidence that this was due to falling standards.

http://fullfact.org/factchecks/grade_inflation_rising_results_falling_st...

But a year before, BBC 4's "More or Less" found that A levels appeared to be getting "easier" particularly in Maths where a 1992 E would have been worth C+/B in 2009.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00m44rq (about 20 mins into the programme)

Mr Gove has made it clear that he expected fewer pupils to gain A grades. However, at the same time he expects more pupils to gain 5 C grades including Maths and English. This year he will pronounce a secondary school as "failing" if it doesn't get 45% of its pupils passed this benchmark. This benchmark will subsequently rise to 50%. Lincolnshire County Council has already expressed fears that its secondary modern schools will struggle to get to this standard.

So, we have a situation where more pupils are expected to get 5 C grades but fewer are expected to gain A and A+ grades because marking is expected to be harder.

It's like something out of "Alice in Wonderland".

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 23/08/2012 - 14:15

Difficult to see this interference as mere incompetence. It has more than the whiff of deliberation about it, reeking of the stench of social division which threatens to return us beyond the repression of the 1950s, further back than Downton Abbey, right into foul Dickensian world of toffs and poorhouses, when education was the preserve of the wealthy.

It is evident that Gove wanted more failure because his policies thrive on failure and punishment. Burning the goalposts not at the beginning of the the year but in the final term guarantees more schools deemed to be failing and thus ready to be handed over to those creepy Academy chains. I see Mossbourne has lost a legal challenge over its refusal to admit a number of children with special educational needs. "Educational Cleansing" seems to be the new order, nicely timed to coincide with an economic policy that punishes and takes from the poor whilst the wealthiest are rewarded or left alone to manipulate the get out clauses. At this rate of misery, unemployment and the dumping of even more hopelessness on the young, none of use should be the least bit surprised when the collective pride of theis years' Olympics wears off and the disenfranchised and marginalised torch the streets again next summer.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 23/08/2012 - 23:26

Wow. This really is tinfoil hat stuff.

Gove and many of his supporters have a deep-rooted fear and loathing of students from poorer backgrounds. .. they don’t want the poor ... to succeed; they want to see them fail, they want a more socially segregated society where the poor are not properly educated

Huh?
Gove has made narrowing the gap between the attainment of deprived kids and affluent kids an explicit policy goal after the gap widened under Labour.

Why would Gove want to do down the poor? His dad wasn't the Duke of Buccleuch. His adoptive dad was a fish processor and his adoptive Mum a lab-assistant FFS.

I can hardly believe the weirdo conspiracy nut stuff here is being voiced by teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children. How is writing a crackpot blog post like this any different from being a Young Earth Creationist or a 9/11 Truther?

Leonard James's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 10:11

Ricky,

"Wow. This really is tinfoil hat stuff."

Personal incredulity is hardly a decent counter argument.

"Huh?
Gove has made narrowing the gap between the attainment of deprived kids and affluent kids an explicit policy goal after the gap widened under Labour."

So what? Is it not beyond the realms of possibility that one can say one thing and mean another? The proof will be in the pudding although thus far one can argue that a few of Gove's other aims seem (benchmarking and regional pay spring to mind) at odds with any genuine attempt to raise standards for anyone let alone the poor.

"Why would Gove want to do down the poor? His dad wasn’t the Duke of Buccleuch. His adoptive dad was a fish processor and his adoptive Mum a lab-assistant FFS."

False cause. A modest upbringing doesn't mean one is always sympathetic to others who live modestly.

"I can hardly believe the weirdo conspiracy nut stuff here is being voiced by teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children. How is writing a crackpot blog post like this any different from being a Young Earth Creationist or a 9/11 Truther?"

Ad hominem and a 'oh will someone think of the children' appeal to emotion.

Pretty weak stuff here - why don't you just ask Francis to provide evidence for the claims you disagree with?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 11:01

Heard Gove on radio last night saying it was entirely up to the exam boards how they did their marking and put their grade boundaries - they were completely independent of government pressure. Do I believe him? No.

Radio 4 Today this reported that at the exam board briefing yesterday the language was full of Gove rhetoric eg getting rid of modular exams, ending the resit culture and so on. Another commentator on TV's review of the papers (sorry, didn't catch her name) said this was rather like Henry II and his "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" remark.

I would go further and I'll invoke Animal Farm's Sqealer again: "My fellow animals. Comrade Napoleon has let you know his views but is leaving it up to you to make the correct decision. He respects your independence but trusts that you will do what he thinks is right."

No doubt the "independent" exam boards will roll over and resurrect CSE/O level exams. This will be backed up by remarks from Gove's pet heads who can be relied upon to produce a suitable quote with a good dollop of anecdotal evidence thereby going against what many high-performing countries in the world are doing with their exam systems (see FAQs above).

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 11:15

Sorry Leonard, I had quite forgotten I was supposed to be addressing a meeting of the Socratic Club, not just popping into a blog site. Still, my points stand.

Re: regional/national pay - did you get a chance to read the research published by Bristol University CMPO this week?

A new study, published today [22 August] investigated the relationship between centralised pay setting of teachers’ salaries and school performance and found a negative impact on pupil learning. The findings reveal that centralised pay setting leads to an average loss of one GCSE exam grade per pupil.

http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2012/8678.html

Leonard James's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 12:19

Perhaps if you cut out the insults and emotional appeals to any neutral readers I'd be able to understand what point you are trying to make.

Re: regional pay. Is the the regional pay in this article the same as the regional pay advocated by Gove? I'm not so sure given that Gove seems to be in favour of wages going down in certain areas and up in others while leaving teacher terms and conditions up to the very people who have done nothing about the gross inequalities you (or Ben - sorry can't remember who) described in another thread.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 13:21

Leonard - I haven't read the Bristol study yet but the blurb says: "the average difference in teacher wage between the North East of England and Inner London is approximately nine per cent, while the equivalent private sector wage difference is larger than 30 per cent. The effect of this is that in areas where private sector wages are high centralised pay setting acts as a pay ceiling for teachers. This can cause difficulties in recruitment and retention, especially of higher-quality workers."

If I follow the researcher's logic correctly - that a higher wage differential between private sector workers and teachers impact negatively on pupils' GCSE grades - then we would expect pupils in London to have worse GCSE grades than in the rest of the country because the wage differential is higher in London. But the opposite is the case - pupils in London schools tend to do better. In fact, London is the only capital city in which pupils do better than pupils living outside the capital.

Perhaps we need some new jargon for the setting of pay:

GGULPP: Gcse Grades Up - Larger Pay Packet
STD: Staff (Trained) Differential (ie the money saved by employing untrained teachers)
FOGs: Friends Of Gove (bonus for executive principals who happily provide quotes for DfE press-releases)

or, as Ted Wragg wrote in 2002 when defending National Pay Scales for providing a defined career structure:

OFFAL: Official Factors for Acknowledging Learning (ie league table position, benchmarks)
SS: Sexy Specialism (for maths or science teachers)
SODOFF: Salary and On-Costs Dear, Over Forty Factor
NILTSU: Not In League Table, So Useless
BUNG: Does not mean Being Useless, Never Grafting. BUNG means Buttering Up Naive Governors.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 15:32

Leonard - although the blurb for the Bristol study talks about GCSE grades the report (according to RT) doesn't compare schools by GCSE results but by Value Added. It's odd, then, that the covering press release doesn't mention Value Added but uses the research to make some connection between wage differentials, national pay scales and GCSE scores.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 14:36

Janet

– then we would expect pupils in London to have worse GCSE grades than in the rest of the country

Not necessarily so.... for reasons Leonard, as resident logician, will doubtless be able to explain.

Besides, the study doesn't compare schools by GCSE grades but by Value Added, you'll be pleased to hear.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:04

Surely this study just shows that some people in London earn a lot?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:16

Are we all perfectly happy with the assumption that teachers who focus on ensure their students do not become neets by supporting them into the real world and ensuring they have the right qualifications they need to flourish in it are not productive while those who only focus on cramming students for core exams and don't bother about what happens next are productive?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:30

Ricky said "I had quite forgotten I was supposed to be addressing a meeting of the Socratic Club"
Wiki says the Oxford Socratic Club was: "an open forum for the discussion of the intellectual difficulties connected with religion and with Christianity in particular."
Huh? Did I miss something?

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 12:19

American policies - which Gove so favours and imitates - favour financially rewarding teachers that are deemed to have improved classroom results, even by cheating (step forward Michelle Rhee) and sacking those that are deemed to have failed (step forward again Michelle Rhee). And what has been the result of all this? No discernible improvement in American state education but controversy and inflated claims in areas where politicians like to claim miracles - New York, New Orleans...

I'd conclude that Gove's policies have had the most negative impact on learning and that he and his government have decimated the life chances of millions of young people for decades to come.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 15:54

According to the Mail the number of pupils who took a GCSE in a core academic subject fell to one in six under Labour. The paper relates how Gove "despairs" over this low take up. If the Mail is to be believed five out of six pupils avoided core academic subjects like English, Maths and Science.

FullFact found the Mail's article was misleading - it should have made it clear that it was referring to the number of pupils who took all the EBac subjects (a performance measure which wasn't even in existence when Labour was in power). The Mail corrected their article after FullFact contacted the paper but still didn't differentiate between those pupils who took all EBac subjects (24%) and the number who achieved EBac (18%) - the Mail had taken the latter achievement figure and claimed it was the number who entered all subjects. FullFact hopes that the Mail will make a further correction.

http://fullfact.org/factchecks/one_in_six_pupils_ebacc_core_academic_sub...

This is just one example of the "shock-horror" reporting of educational matters in some sections of the press. Fortunately FullFact is around to check up on dubious figures.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 16:39

Predictably, the chaos and outrage caused by Michael Gove's politically motivated burning of the exams goalposts has led to calls for him to order an inquiry into the way GCSE results fell following changes to the marking system.

The Welsh government has already launched its own inquiry into the English language results while the Association of School and College Lecturers (ASCL) has called for a wider investigation into the way English results went down following a decision to raise grade boundaries between exams taken in January and June.

Labour said the Commons education committee should hold an inquiry and Gove faced implicit criticism from his own party in the form of Tory backbencher John Redwood, who said he was "unsure of what is going on" and that it was "unfair" for exam criteria to change at the last moment.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/24/gcse-results-row-michael...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 24/08/2012 - 18:01

Allan

Michael Gove’s politically motivated burning of the exams goalposts

There has been no politically motivated moving (let alone burning) of the goalposts. Michael Gove has raised the issue of grade inflation and has announced coming reforms to the exam system. They haven't happened yet. What happened this year has nothing to do with Gove.

Much of the brouhaha has concerned the changes to the grade boundaries in controlled assessment units for English, particularly those in exams set by AQA. These were announced ages ago and flagged up on the AQA website here:

http://web.aqa.org.uk/exams-office/about-results/grade-boundaries-englis...

They relate to a new specification introduced under the last Labour government. AQA made the position crystal clear:

The unit boundaries for our specifications are determined by an awarding committee, which is a requirement of our regulator. Their Code of Practice requires us to inspect candidates' work and to take account of statistical and technical evidence before these boundaries can be set. As this is the first full year of the new GCSE specifications for English, this cannot happen until after the examinations have taken place, so before then it is impossible to predict what the unit boundaries will be.

Not Gove's specification; no political dimension.

Otherwise, an element of the tiny (four tenths of 1%) overall drop can be attributed to 20,000 independent/selective schools moving out of GCSEs to IGCSEs or other qualifications. Because these students typically get high grades, the proportion receiving high grades dropped accordingly.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 06:50

Allan - One exam board, AQA, writes: "The overall standard of GCSEs has not changed with the introduction of the new specifications, so students are likely to gain similar subject grades as students of comparable ability have in previous years."

However, this clearly has not happened in English, the GCSE exam which is taken by around 95% of the cohort. Teachers of English have complained that the grade boundaries have changed between January and June - many pupils who would have been graded C in January seemed to have been downgraded to D in June. The NAHT is also calling for an enquiry into this year's English results.

Changing the goalposts halfway through a year, as seems to have happened despite rhetoric to the contrary, is unacceptable. Although I've made it clear on several occasions that I am concerned about grade inflation (a C grade in 1987 was above-average, for example), any changes to exams should be brought in carefully over time (Tomlinson recommended ten years).

http://web.aqa.org.uk/exams-office/about-results/grade-boundaries-englis...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 07:39

No political interference? According to the Daily Telegraph, Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, admitted that there was a push to "strengthen" GCSEs two years ago although she denied that examiners were testing candidates more "brutally" in 2012.

So where was this “push” coming from? It was coming from the person who says it was up to the exam boards and there was no political interference. It's the same person who's increased the benchmark so more schools fail to reach it and can be forced to become academies - the master of Doublespeak, Michael Gove.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/9493934/GCSE-res...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 09:48

There was indeed a push - and the new linear courses and improved specifications are in the pipeline and the exams will be sat from 2014.

The exams just taken were also new specs - introduced by a Labour administration. As per usual with new specs, grade boundaries are set only when the papers are in. That means that for the first year, teachers don't know in advance what the GBs are. They knew this was the case when they entered their students for new spec exams.

What has happened is that in the continual assessment units, a number have attempted to mark for grade (which they are not supposed to do). The implication of much of the outrage on the web is that if teachers had only known the grade boundaries were higher, they would have given more marks!

There is a word for that: it's called "cheating".

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:51

"What has happened is that in the continual assessment units, a number have attempted to mark for grade (which they are not supposed to do). The implication of much of the outrage on the web is that if teachers had only known the grade boundaries were higher, they would have given more marks!
There is a word for that: it’s called “cheating”"

What utter excrement of the male cattle Ricky.

Teachers align students papers with descriptions of what those students have achieved which fit grade descriptors. In other words in the mark schemes the exam boards define the things they should see if the child is to get a C or another grade. There is a band of marks associated with a C grade and teachers give lower marks to the students who have only just achieved those descriptors and higher marks to the students who have securely achieved them but had not accessed the next grades.

Marking essays is not like marking maths tests Ricky. Can you understand what I'm saying or do I need to explain it in even more detail? Anyone who's actually marked essays or assignments instantly understands this.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 17:01

Rebecca

We are talking about new exams for which the grade boundaries had not been set and for which teachers were told boundaries would only be set once the papers were in. See above.

AQA advised Controlled Assessment centres:

Mark the work according to the assessment criteria, discounting any expectations about a student's grade.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 18:20

Rebecca -

I agree with you. I also think that grade inflation needs to be proved and then re-examined. This is going to take time and it has to be done at the right moment. The question is - and the scandal hinges on - why did teenagers entered for one of the UK's most widely taken English GCSEs need to score 54% for a C in January but 66% if they took it in June? Gove may be tackling grade inflation but he's gone about it in a totally wrong way and opened himself up to accusations of discrimination, incompetence, ruining the lives of young people and pursuing his own political ambitions. Pretty shanfeul on counts!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 19:32

I know Ricky. We knew this was coming. What you are describing is still a shift from the grade being related to the criteria which have been achieved in a coherent and predictable way to norm based referencing.

It's a fundamental thing.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 11:44

A head teacher praised by Mr Gove in June 2011 had attacked the Secretary of State over the GCSE English grades. John Townsley, head of two Leeds academies, Ofqual board member and chair of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust said:

"Headteachers are totally supportive of the idea that there shouldn't be guaranteed year-on-year rises in results and we accepted the need for sophisticated change… But what has taken place in the AQA has been butchery. I do not believe the secretary of state or the Department for Education fully understands the extent to which AQA's performance has been totally unreliable."

Townsley said that heads were “incredibly angry on behalf of the children”.

This anger seems to be felt by local authorities who indicate that a case could be mounted on the allegation that the downgrading breached equal opportunities laws. The deputy leader of Leeds city council told the Guardian that the first priority would be to look at how AQA responded to any DfE directives about grade level.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/24/gcse-results-michael-gov...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 11:46

Warwick Mansell, writing in the Guardian, asked why AQA English candidates could score 54% for a C in January but needed a 66% for a C if they took the exam in June. He concluded:

“Some now speculate that Gove has forced down English results to make it harder for schools to meet the threshold, and thus to bolster his academies project. Gove does appear to be using targets to push a particular vision of schooling on an often reluctant profession, but from what we know now this saga reeks more of cock-up than conspiracy.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/23/gcse-english-marks-cocku...

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 16:59

Janet - quite right. So nothing to do with a Labour administration or "cheating." The Tories are looking a very sad bunch indeed if the touted successors to dithering David Cameron are the cock-ups known as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson!

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 12:07

Even the Mail is featuring the complaints. It wrote that Leighton Andrews, education minister in Wales, has accused Gove of “politicisng the system.”

Andrews had told the BBC: ‘It's a shame that we're seeing politics brought into the exam process by the secretary of state for education in England, Michael Gove…When Michael Gove says jump, the head of Ofqual says “how high?”.’

The Mail also reported that heads in independent schools are joining the chorus of criticism. Cynthia Hall, head of £31,950-a-year Wycombe Abbey School, said that GCSE English results appeared to have been “artificially depressed.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2193198/GCSE-results-2012-Grade-...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 25/08/2012 - 13:18

It's time to drop GCSEs says Independent, echoing calls by head of Eton earlier in the year and Sir Mike Tomlinson as long ago as 2004.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/lisa-freedman-gcses-ar...

This idea was subject of an earlier LSN thread:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/06/scrap-gcses-altogether-and...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 18:27

I've just stumbled upon the most extraordinary article.

worryingly, only one in four pupils are now attaining five A* to C grades in what I would term "good" GCSEs, English, maths, sciences, a modern foreign language and a humanities subject such as history or geography.

Who do you think wrote that? Michael Gove in 2010?
Nope. It was someone rather surprising, inventing the EBac avant la lettre in 2009.

How about this?

In the world rankings, English children are sliding down the scale. Figures from the Programme for International Assessment (Pisa) show England has plummeted from fourth place in science to 14th; from seventh in literacy to 17th; and from eighth in maths to 24th.

Sounds just like Gove, doesn't it. But not so. I bet Janet would have something to say about that.

Here's the same fellow coming over Govian yet again:

when you put aside parental influence (which is the biggest factor in a pupil's attainment at school), it is good teachers that have the most effect. Countries such as Finland have the top schools because their teachers are taken from the top third of graduates.

Here he is again, giving Gove the idea it's well past time to sack crap teachers:

Even one of the government's own advisors, Sir Cyril Taylor, admitted that there are about 17,000 teachers who are not up to the job.

Here he is almost half-way to the academy programme:

What teachers like me want is to be freed of the shackles of an over-prescriptive, leaden curriculum

Here he is on the students....Class of 2009:

passive, dull-eyed pupils have become used to being spoon-fed, expecting the top grades to be handed to them on a plate, with a worksheet or revision guide that explains everything....... truly the yob generation; a generation which has been drip-fed appalling reality TV shows like Big Brother and is keen to imitate the antics of the worst of the inmates.

So who is this Tory reactionary who foreshadowed so much of Gove's policy.

Step forward Francis Gilbert, vintage 2009. Nearly everything that's now government policy was being advocated by Francis before the last election!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/29/gcse-results-labour-...

......oh, and here he is commenting on a small drop in the English GCSE results:

progress in English is now declining, with 62.7% of pupils achieving the benchmark C grade against 62.9% in 2008.

Priceless.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 19:34

Everyone's been concerned about PISA results for a long time Ricky. The thing is coherent things were being done to address them but Gove shut them all down and started moving rapidly in a direction which would clearly make things worse.

He clearly didn't have the least idea about what PISA actually tests.

leonard james's picture
Sun, 26/08/2012 - 22:26

Ricky,

Is the hypocrisy of Francis really the most relevent issue here?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 10:04

Re the PISA results: the article was written in August 2009 before the results of the 2009 PISA results were known. These were published in December 2010 with a warning that the 2000 results (which were cited in the article) had been found to be flawed and should not be used for comparison. Anyone writing an article in August 2009 would have been unlikely to have known this and would have published the figures in good faith.

If Gove really wanted schools to be freed from the National Curriculum he would grant this opportunity to all schools and not expect them to go through conversion hoops. Neither would he require the National Curriculum to be reviewed. Neither would he make his views on the expected Curriculum so well-known. Neither would he require Ofsted to judge schools on their delivery of certain subjects. Neither would he introduce EBacc and rubbish vocational qualifications (while praising the results in academies that use these exams).

If Gove really wanted teachers to be highly educated and trained he would not allow untrained teachers to be employed in academies and free schools. Neither would he allow inadequate on-the-job teacher training of the "sitting by Nelly" type.

And if he was serious about a future, well-educated workforce he wouldn't quietly drop the requirement for employers to train any 16-19 year-olds that they employ.

Govian hypocrisy? Priceless, isn't it?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 12:50

Well, it's certainly in the top four.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 12:47

And if he was serious about a future, well-educated workforce he wouldn’t quietly drop the requirement for employers to train any 16-19 year-olds that they employ.

He's done no such thing. You are completely wrong about this, as I explain on the appropriate thread.

If Gove really wanted schools to be freed from the National Curriculum.....

Well Janet, he's already liberated around half of all secondary schools from it, so there can't be any doubt that he's in earnest.

If Gove really wanted teachers to be highly educated ....

I've been wondering what happened to your post celebrating the news that almost one in five Maths graduates now go into teaching and that this year - for the first time ever - more than half of all the cohort of Maths graduates with a 2.1 or a first class degree last year have gone into teaching. .....Oh, you forgot to write that post....wonder why?

leonard james's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 13:14

"Well Janet, he’s already liberated around half of all secondary schools from it, so there can’t be any doubt that he’s in earnest."

If it was that important to Gove surely he'd remove the need to become an academy as well? Isn't that the point Janet is trying to make?

"I’ve been wondering what happened to your post celebrating the news that almost one in five Maths graduates now go into teaching and that this year – for the first time ever – more than half of all the cohort of Maths graduates with a 2.1 or a first class degree last year have gone into teaching. …..Oh, you forgot to write that post….wonder why?"

This is cherry picking and, unless you expand on this, I think false cause as well. Given the current economic climate is it not likely that Maths graduates are choosing teaching because there isn't much else out there? Is there any evidence that this surge in recruitment is directly caused by any of Gove's policies?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 15:06

leonard james @
27/08/12 at 1:14 pm (no reply button)

If it was that important to Gove surely he’d remove the need to become an academy as well? Isn’t that the point Janet is trying to make?

I'm surprised that someone so fastidious as you are regarding the quality of arguments has not spotted the flaw in your own.

By analogy, would you say that the refusal of the Health Secretary to allow anyone off the street to conduct open-heart surgery was a sign that he didn't care sufficiently about the need for/supply of cardiac surgeons? No, of course not.

Equally, school autonomy needs to be earned, rather like a qualification. The SoS has to be satisfied that a school released from the NC has the required leadership/governance/accountability mechanisms in place.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 15:16

Why do you feel it's so important that the SoS for Education should decide whether a school can vary it's curriculum Ricky.

Why should the school not be able to decide that in conjunction with its community and the systems of democratic local accountability? After all they're the one's who are capable of understanding and analysing both whether the variations proposed are appropriate for the local area and whether the school has the capability to deliver them.

Mr Gove hasn't any way of personally being able to judge this for every school in the country. What makes you think he can possibly have that ability Ricky? Even if he was a wise person people respected he still coudn't do it.

leonard james's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 20:33

Ricky,

Not a good analogy. Academies and non academies are both doing the same work so saying that granting freedom over the curriculum to a non state school is like letting an amatuer conduct open heart surgery is a bit of stretch. A better analogy would revolve around only letting the best open heart surgeons trial new types of surgery. I would have less to complain about if one were proposing that outstanding schools were granted freedom from the NC on a trial basis. However this isn't what is being proposed and the black and white reasoning that only academies can handle the responsibility seems limited.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 16:49

Rebecca

Largely I agree. I'm all for local decision-making and school autonomy. And I've seen no sign of Gove trying to tell academies to adopt this or that curriculum. However, there are a lot of schools - and quite a few LAs - who've shown they cannot be trusted. And the government does have a responsibility to protect the children in them from gross incompetence and folly.

Jumping through the academy conversion hoops aren't the only feasible test... and may not be the best conceivable test. But it's the one we've got to hand. There seems little point devising anything new as pretty well all secondaries will be academies within a very few years and even more the primary landslide begins in earnest, LA education departments are a busted flush now anyway.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 16:59

In any huge system there will be some people who are not up to the job. That's not a coherent rationale for ignoring the system or blowing it to bits. it's a coherent rationale for dealing with those people.

But unfortunately the people who are not up to the job also tend to be experts at telling people what they want to hear (which is how they've got the jobs they aren't up to). Gove is an extreme sucker for people who tell him what he wants to hear. So instead of dealing with the problem people he has promoted them and brought more in.

Why can't we just have someone with ability in charge? Gove was a Murdoch adoring hack with no experience of managing anyone or anything, a philosophy of life which was so underdeveloped it had barely got past 'things will get better if we punish the bad people more' and a penchant to believe that he was surrounded by baddies he had to get rid of in a very paranoid way. He would have been a perfect statesman in Nazi Germany. What the heck is he doing running education in 21st Century Britain? Why did anyone ever thing this was a good idea?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 17:25

no experience of managing anyone or anything

Not entirely true. He had been news editor of the Times, though that isn't exactly the equivalent of running a multinational. But then, politicians aren't supposed to be technocrats. They are supposed to be politicians. They are there to give political direction and leadership to departments, which are 'run' by Perm Secs.

a penchant to believe that he was surrounded by baddies he had to get rid of..

Well, you can hardly say that the education establishment was full of Tories or enthusiasts for schools reform.

Gove's approach has been to take power away from councils, education academics, bureaucrats etc. and give it to heads, governors and parents. I rather like that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 17:37

How many people do you manage when you're a news editor at the Times?
What are your budgets and turnover? What do you actually deliver? In News Corp jobs seem to have been given out based on being one of the family rather than on having transferable skills.

Politicians should be mature and credible people. I accept that at present they often aren't but I think that's a shame and that this situation should be rectified.

Just because people weren't enthusiastic about Gove's reforms doesn't mean that they are baddies Ricky. It means that they understand reality. It also doesn't mean that they won't implement reforms. It just means that they understand that it's necessary to consult to make policies fit for purpose and that things take time.

Gove's approach has been to give extreme power to himself and to use it. The consequences on the ground are excruciating.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 18:31

How many people do you manage when you’re a news editor at the Times?
What are your budgets and turnover?


Haven't a clue.

What do you actually deliver?

...Newspapers?

In News Corp jobs seem to have been given out based on being one of the family rather than on having transferable skills.

Seems so. But it appears to be rather a successful strategy, doesn't it, turning this 'family firm' into the most successful media conglomerate on the planet? Personally, I generally tend to hesitate before giving billionaires advice on how to run their businesses. (It's an approach I commend to you.... :-))

Just because people weren’t enthusiastic about Gove’s reforms doesn’t mean that they are baddies Ricky.

Oh yes it does.

it’s necessary to consult to make policies fit for purpose and that things take time.

As a voter, I rather like stuff I vote for in one election to be quite far advanced by the time I'm asked to vote again. 'Parent-voters', whose political choices are more than usually driven by education issues feel this fierce urgency even more strongly as their kids will only spend 7 years in each school phase. What use is Gove to those whose kids will be at Clare by the time his KS4 reforms actually happen?

Gove’s approach has been to give extreme power to himself and to use it.

Huh? Apart from Downhills, I can't think of one executive sanction. MG has developed views on what the History syllabus should look like, but all he's done is set up a panel of squabbling historians to 'consult' - and by the time they get anything into classrooms they'll be a new wave of revisionism to consider. MG has a clear view what A levels should be like - but has he imposed it? No, he's invited the universities to design them. Gove knows that "content is king", yet still gives facetime (and sometimes, jobs) to dinosaurs who witter on about '21st century skills'. Could be more ruthless, IMHO.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 19:17

Gove was a paperboy? Oh well good on him. So was I actually.

I think the News Corp 'family' experience would make Gove a good whip. Honestly. It's the right skills set. It's just not the right skills set for managing hundreds of thousands for professionals who do jobs he has no ability to understand.

Gove's policies before the election were about professional freedom - not about creating a personal dictatorship.

I can't believe you feel that a secretary of state sanctioning a school by putting it in special measures to achieve his own dubious goals is acceptable Ricky. You really haven't the foggiest what he's done have you? Not only has he destroyed a school but he's told lots of people across the UK that it's okay for them to shove a school into special measures for reasons which are nothing to do with the school in a climate where he was wanting lots of schools to fail. Ricky, Ricky, Ricky you just can't begin to imaging how horrific a thing this is for one person to do.

I also can't believe you honestly think that state education suddenly decided to chuck out criteria referencing and return to norm referencing just because it suddenly felt like it. You really couldn't be more clueless about the people and history involved here.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 20:00

"Gove knows that “content is king”, yet still gives facetime (and sometimes, jobs) to dinosaurs who witter on about ’21st century skills’"

Ricky can you not even begin to see how ignorant the position you've just described is?

Employers have written again and again about kids leaving school without the basic personal skills they need to function in the real world. These skills do not need to be developed at the expense of content Ricky. If only we had a reasonable SoS who supported intelligent policy we could make so much progress so quickly because the technological infrastructures have evolved so rapidly recently that much more is possible now than has ever been imaginable before.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 27/08/2012 - 21:36

Rebecca

Perhaps because you taught Maths you aren't aware of it, but to English & Humanities teachers (with any sense) and to many in other subject areas too, the people who witter on about skills were responsible for one of the worst acts of cultural and educational vandalism in our history. They stripped almost all content out of subjects and tried to teach transferable skills in the abstract. That can't be done (read Dan Willingham for why not) and a generation of kids left having learned nothing of value at all.

There's been some rowing back in recent years, and I dare say the synthesis you voice is the new orthodoxy, but those responsible are still there. No resignations. No apologies, No remorse. The Breiviks of the profession. Sack the lot.

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