More dodgy data from the DfE
The Department for Education has named the best and the worst towns for GCSE results in 2013, the Telegraph
claimed. But some “towns” were local authorities, some were “district council areas” and some were unfathomable.
Take the City of London. This was supposedly one of the best areas with 81% of pupils gaining 5 GCSEs A*-C including maths and English. But DfE school performance tables showed the City of London had no state secondary schools. The City of London Corporation
, however, says it’s got three: The City Academy Hackney, City of London Academy Islington and City of London Academy Southwark. The first didn’t enter pupils for GCSE in 2013. 60% of pupils in the Islington academy and 66% in Southwark reached the benchmark. That’s an average of 63%. 63% is not 81%.
Some areas had too few schools to come to a meaningful conclusion. Kingston-Upon-Hull had one school entering pupils for GCSE in 2013 as did the Isles of Scilly where only 21 pupils sat GCSEs. Forest Heath district had two schools. Horsham, Havant and Hastings only had three.
It’s unreliable to base conclusions about how well areas perform on such small samples of schools
A study, claiming to “vindicate” the teaching of synthetic phonics as the only method of teaching reading, was widely publicised
. But the Times
(16 June, behind paywall) said its significance was limited by the small scale of the study. Ben Goldacre put it more succinctly in a tweet:
@bengoldacre "Teachers. If a non-randomised study of 30 kids in one class counts as significant evidence, your sector is broken."
The author of the report
, Dr Marlynne Grant, is not disinterested. She’s a member of the Reading Reform Foundation which promotes phonics. Her phonics programme, Sound Discovery, is sold by Pearson and she’s a director of Synthetic Phonics Ltd. Her report recommends the purchase of "government-approved" phonics materials: Sound Discovery is on the DfE's "Choose a Phonics Programme
" list although it says inclusion isn't endorsement.
The recently published NFER evaluation
of the phonics screening check received less attention. It found 60% of teachers of reading claimed to teach synthetic phonics “first and fast”. However, NFER found teachers’ responses about the use of other methods contradicted this. NFER concluded that teachers regarded phonics as an important part, but not the only part, of teaching children to read.
Accelerated Christian Education
25 Independent Christian schools in England use Accelerated Christian Education, says the Mail
. The programme, described in TES
two years ago, uses textbooks which say the sun was created “a few thousand years ago”, describes evolution as an “indefensible theory” and says homosexuality is a “learned behaviour”.
Brenda Lewis, head of the ACE King of Kings School, Manchester, said the textbooks were only a “very small part of a very large curriculum” and they acted as a “springboard”.
But the school’s prospectus
seems to contradict this: "Accelerated Christian Education, an individualised Christian learning programme, forms the body of the curriculum". It is delivered through PACE (Package of Accelerated Christian Education) modules contained in workbooks which pupils complete at their own pace.
Science level One of this curriculum
requires children to discover “God’s wisdom as he learns about God creating Earth…” The Government has just banned the teaching of creationism as a valid scientific theory in all English state schools. Perhaps this prohibition should extend to independent schools.