The worst wake up.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
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Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 11:45

Smithers -

Why don't you give us the benefit of your brilliant intellect and tell us how closing 200 primary schools against their will and turning them into Academies will improve the education of the children? What will these Academies be doing that is so magical that, by a stroke, these same kids will achieve levels of intelligence unheard of in their current state?

As you are so fond of saying - Where is the evidence to support this? What is the "radical change?" Or are you just doing your usual swallowing and regurgitating what Gove says? Because Gove hasn't really said much about how his vision is going to turn around education has he? Just that by being an Academy and not a maintained school will improve results. But he hasn't actually said what magic formula he has up his sleeve to achieve this, has he?

All this is achieving is forcing 200 primary schools to submit to his jurisdication with no guarantee that their education will improve and with the high risk of causing distress and confusion to children, parents and educators.

Your perpetuate the lie - as you always do - that local authorities are failing children but not all local authorities fail all schools so what is the point of dismantling a whole system, especially when the funds aren't there to do it and our Education Secretary has been caught - once again - unable to do his maths (do go and look at Fiona's today's post on this dear and catch up with the news)?

Attempting to lay the blame for his incompetence on LAs and Labour shows how unfit he is to be doing what he is doing and how gullible you are as he dangles the carrot of "aspiration" in front of you having taken it away from the mouths of the ones he has tossed aside.

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 14:39


Your solution is of course to do nothing - bonkers.

Have responded to your rant on other thread.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 14:42

Judging schools by raw exam data is a crude and blunt instrument. It may even mask bad teaching in schools where test results are good because of the school's intake. What is needed is a range of more sophisticated measures of a school's effectiveness. OECD suggested some possible ideas for consideration and these are listed here:

Since OECD published these suggestions, however, Mr Gove has scrapped the Contextual Value Added (CVA) score which, although imperfect, was a "step in the right direction" according to the OECD. As so often, Mr Gove is marching in the wrong direction. He is using the "underperforming" schools label to force schools to become academies under governance of his choosing. Where is the local democracy in that?

Mr Gove says he will not name the 200 primary schools earmarked for academy conversion. Last year my granddaughter's lovely village school was judged inadequate despite the teaching satisfying the criteria. If teaching in a school, any school, is judged to be satisfactory or better, but the school's results are below-average, does not this suggest that there are factors at work here which are beyond the teacher's control? In this particular case, the lower-than-average SAT score was based on the results of just 12 (that's correct, just 12) pupils, a third of whom had special education needs.

I have written to Ofsted via my MP to ask if it is fair that a school, any school, should be judged inadequate on the results of such a small cohort. I have not received a reply.

It's extraordinary the lengths that Mr Gove is going through to push through his academies programme. And it's all based on a lie - that English state education is unfit for purpose.

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 15:02

Janet - this is not a random list and to get on list a proven track record of underperformance is required - see below from Guardian.
"The primaries that will be turned into academies are those that have fallen below the government's minimum standards for five years. The standards require at least 60% of pupils to achieve a basic level – level four – in English and maths by the age of 11, and also require them to have made at least average progress between the ages of seven and 11.
Around 500 primaries have fallen below the minimum standards for three or four years, and local authorities have been asked to draw up plans to show how they intend to improve them."


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 16:09

Thanks, Andy. It looks as if my granddaughter's school will be safe because the below-average score on which the "inadequate" judgement was based was a one-off.

I found this press release on the DfE wesbite. You'll note that Mr Gove says that UK education must reform to face the challenges of this century. However, his methods go against the advice that came from Andreas Schleicher of the OECD and the warnings about the English obsession with grades that could crowd out the very skills that Andreas Schleicher identified.

You'll also notice that he's using the rising floor standard ploy - that is, if you keep raising the bar the standards will also rise. Actually, the opposite is true. It sounds good to say "We should no longer tolerate a system in which so many pupils leave primary school without a good grasp of English and maths, and leave secondary school without five good GCSEs". However, if every school leaver is expected to leave school with a minimum of 5 GCSEs C and above, then the certificate has degenerated into nothing more than a school leaving certificate achievable by all. In 1987 when GCSE was introduced, a grade C pass was meant to be the equivalent of an old General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary (O) level pass. This standard was meant to show high ability and be achieved by only the top 30% or so. GCSE Level E was the grade set for the average 16 year old and the lower levels of GCSE F and G were for those pupils who had covered the course, achieved a basic level and hadn't dropped out of school. GCSE C was the lowest grade needed to proceed to Advanced Level and then to University.

And as late as the 1970s it was possible to go into teacher training with only 5 GCE Ordinary Level passes.

Now pupils are expected to get 5 GCSE Cs and above. It is no longer an exam for high ability but an exam of average ability. Is it really possible that all pupils are now capable of proceeding to A levels and then to University?

If Mr Gove is serious about UK examinations being the equivalent of the best international ones, then he should be thinking of recalibrating GCSEs to 1987 level. It wouldn't be popular with parents or schools but it would instil some confidence in the exam system. If this does not happen, then schools will abandon GCSEs, EBacc included, ditch A levels and move to the International Baccalaureate.

A levels were once the gold standard. They're beginning to look rather tarnished and it's not fair on our pupils.,3746,en_2649_201185_46846594_1_1_1_1,00...

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 18:06

In the press release (link above) Mr Gove refers to the recent London School of Economics report about the academy effect to back up his claims about how wonderful academy conversion is. I’m still not sure about the validity of the control group.

Now I’m thinking aloud here – and I’m not a statistician, but I see it like this. There is a group of schools which are to be compared to each other. This group comprises academies and their neighbouring schools. The quality of intake of the academies rose significantly after conversion and the results improved. The neighbouring schools also improved. Now, correlation doesn’t mean causation, so I thought there might be other reasons such as improved teaching, a switch to easier exams or grade inflation. However, these reasons were supposed to be factored out because there was a control group away from the academies whose results didn’t rise. Therefore, it was concluded, the only factor that could explain the rise in results in the neighbouring schools was proximity to an academy.

But, hang on. The control group comprised pre-academy schools which at the time were all failing schools. Presumably they were failing because their results didn’t rise. So I don’t think it’s valid to compare a group of schools with rising results with a control group of failing schools, and then say the only possible reason for the rise in results in the neighbouring schools was proximity to an academy.

Are you still with me? Or are you totally confused? I know I am.

And there was also the bias: local authority governance described as rigid, with all the negative connotations of that word, while academy governance (self-selecting, not accountable) was described as flexible. And the error: that local authority schools impose a heavy bureaucracy on their schools. They don’t – local authority responsibilities are limited and local authority schools have considerable autonomy.

It’s all made me rather suspicious. But, as my pupils used to say, “This is doing my head in.”

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 18:49


I think your last post shows your bias. London School of Economics are a lot better at these studies than you are at analysing the results .
I agree that you are totally confused.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 19:16

Andy, I agree with you - I am confused. The FactCheck Blog compared the LSE report with one from Civitas which had concluded that some academies were ditching GCSEs for easier vocational subjects, which was one of the reasons I put forward as to why the results in the academies and their neighbouring schools might have risen.

"Considered the equivalent of GCSEs for the purposes of the league tables, vocational subjects like computing took up less teaching time and were branded “less demanding” and “of doubtful value” by Ofsted."

The FactCheck Blog went on: "The extent of the problem was impossible to gauge, Civitas found, because neither the schools nor the Department for Education were able to break down the GCSEs by subject area and academies were not obliged to answer Freedom of Information requests."

"In light of the shortcomings in the available evidence, the think-tank went so far as to call for a halt to the programme until the then-Labour Government really knew what was going on with GCSE results. But, far from heeding that call, the Coalition has pressed on with expanding the academies programme without addressing the gap in our knowledge."

The Blog concluded: "Mr Gove’s decision to extend the academy system to cover primary schools looks increasingly like a gamble rather than a piece of evidence-based policy. We’re not going to dismiss his claim as fiction because it’s based on a solid piece of research from the LSE. But until we see hard evidence that they are not dumbing down the curriculum to boost their exam results, the jury’s still out on academies."

And Andy, I have admitted my difficulties at trying to decipher a technical piece of research. I have said I'm not a statistician. And I have no doubt that the LSE is better at stats than I am. Unfortunately, you have misinterpreted my clumsy attempts at trying to understand the data as an example of "bias". In any case, the results were a lot more nuanced than Mr Gove claims. The researchers warned that more time was need to assess the results fully.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 07:52

Now I’m even more confused! The London School of Economics produced this in Autumn 2010:

“Following the change of government, there has been a U-turn in academy schools policy. Under the Labour government, the programme was aimed at combating disadvantage, and we find evidence that it may actually have achieved this objective in schools that have had academy status for a long enough period. Under the coalition government, the academies programme is now likely to reinforce advantage and exacerbate existing inequalities in schooling. At a time of budget restraint, it seems natural to question whether the large expenditure involved in converting these advantaged schools to academies is justified”

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