Academy chains seriously under-performing

Henry Stewart's picture
Here is more detail behond today's Guardian story on academy chains:

Last week, as it released its secondary school data, the DfE press release stated "Schools below the floor and with a history of under-performance face being taken over by a sponsor with a track record of improving weak schools." However analysis of the data shows that the academy chains, who are the sponsors the DfE refers to, have a miserable record. Taking only the schools that have been part of chains for at least 5 years:

Of 151 local authorities, only 2 have an average GCSE benchmark (without equivalents) below 35%
Of the 7 top chains, 5 have an average GCSE benchmark (without equivalents) below 35%

Over 400 of England's secondary schools now belong to "chains" of academies.  These are groups of schools that have a strange independent status. The chains are not elected by anybody or accountable to the local public in any way. Unlike local authorities, they cannot be inspected by Ofsted.

Chain performance is heavily based on GCSE equivalents

The underperformance of chain academies is disguised by their use of GCSE equivalents, like Btecs.  Overall in England's secondary schools 7.3% pts of the GCSE benchmark figure (the % of pupils obtaining 5 GCSEs including English and Maths) is due to GCSE equivalents like Btecs. This element is regarded by the DfE as gaming the system and the equivalents will, in the main, be removed in the 2014 tables. For stand-alone academies, 13.6% pts of their headline result comes from equivalents. For academies in chains, it is 15.2%.

Of the top chains, listed below, only one (the Harris Federation) has GCSE results that are above the national average. But even to get these results, they make heavy use of equivalents. For all these large chains the contribution of equivalents is above 11%. Without equivalents, the average results of 6 of these 9 largest chains would fall below the government floor target of 40%.

ChainNo.5 A-C (E & M)w/out equivDifference
Academies Enterprise Trust (AET)2452.3%36.5%-15.7%
United Learning2151.9%40.8%-11.1%
Ormiston Academies Trust1754.1%36.0%-18.1%
School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA)1251.7%37.5%-14.2%
Oasis Community Learning1251.6%33.1%-18.5%
Harris Federation1272.9%60.8%-12.2%
Kemnal Academy Trust, The (TKAT)1252.5%39.1%-13.4%
ARK Schools856.3%42.0%-14.3%

These are the largest secondary chains, those for which at least 8 schools had GCSE results in 2013. However there are other chains that make even greater use of equivalents. At the Aldridge Foundation 19% of the results are from equivalents, at UCAT it is 19.,5% and at Outwood Grange it reaches 29.2%.

The results of Harris may not be as robust as they seem. The Guardian discovered many schools following a practice of removing low-achieving pupils form their rolls in the months before exams, to boost their league table result. The Harris chain was one of the worst offenders, with six schools removing over 10% of pupils and one removing 22%.

But levels of deprivation in all these chain are above the national average and some of these schools will only recently have become part of the chain. Are the low results simply because the chains have not yet had time to turn the schools round?

Long established academies and poorly performing chains

There are seven chains that have at least five secondary schools that have been academies with that chain for at least five years. Of these only two chains, Harris and ARK, have managed to get their average result to the national average. Only one of these chains has an average even above 50% without equivalents.

 No.5 A-C (E & M)w/out equivDifference
United Learning1953%41%11.8%
Harris Federation871%60%10.4%
ARK Schools661%45%16.0%

These results make depressing reading and do not paint a picture of groups that have found out how to help these students do well. On the 2014 measure (principally without equivalents), four of the chains will not only be below – on the average for their schools – this year’s floor target of 40% but also likely to be near or below last year’s floor target of 35%.

If a group of local authorities were achieving these results, Gove would say they "underperformed dramatically" - the words he wrongly used to describe Easy Durham schools. Why is there no similar critique of these academy chains?

Time to learn from local authorities?

For comparison there are only two local authorities in the entire country whose average GCSE benchmark (without equivalents) is below 35%. That is two out of 151 local authorities have as low results as four of the top seven chains have with their long established schools.

If schools in local authorities were performing this badly, they would – as the DfE promised to do this week – be handed over to a chain. In all likelihood schools will be handed over to one of these chronically under-performing chains.

It is true that many of these schools are in areas that are highly disadvantaged. However our Secretary of State has repeatedly made clear that this is no excuse for low expectations and poor results. And deprived boroughs like Tower Hamlets (virtually without academies) and Hackney (with a mixture of maintained schools and academies) have shown that disadvantage can be overcome. Their average school results, without equivalents, are 58% and 60% respectively. Indeed of the 11 local authorities where the level of free school meals is above half, 8 have an average GCSE benchmark (without equivalents) above 50%.

There are academies that excel. The results in Mossbourne are every bit as good as is claimed by ministers and another academy in Hackney is likely to match those results this year. However there is a big difference between individual schools focused on the results of one set of students and chains that may have grown beyond their capacity to be effective.

Are chains part of the problem and not part of the solution?

The chains do not seem to be adversely affected by their results. Sir Bruce Liddington, Chief Executive Officer of E-act earned “around £300,000” as CEO of E-Act, until he had to step down last year. His resignation followed E-Act being issued with a “financial notice to improve” by the Education Funding Agency following a series of “weaknesses” in the way it handled its schools’ accounts. Neither its financial problems nor the low results got in the way of E-Act being put in charge of 3 new schools (two primaries, one secondary) in sept 2013

At AET its longest established academy opened twelve years ago, after £46.3 million was spent on building it. Yet after more than a decade its GCSE benchmark figure is 34%. Without equivalents just 18% of students in that school achieved 5 A-Cs including English and Maths. After all that investment, less than 1 in 5 pupils achieve what the DfE describe as "five good GCSEs".

United Learning has four schools that have been with it for ten years. The average GCSE figure without equivalents - after a decade to improve -  is still below 45%. The evidence is damning. On the key measures that the DfE and the Secretary of State use to judge school performance, students in these chains are being let down and there is no evidence that they are able to address it. It is surely time for politicians to intervene.

Michael Gove, will you tackle this stark underperformance in your favoured schools?

Labour, will you speak out and demand this is addressed and these students are no longer let down?

Data Notes

This analysis is based on two DfE data sources. The detailed school-by-school GCSE data is available here. This was correlated with details of schools and which academy trust they are a part of, available here.
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John Mountford's picture
Wed, 29/01/2014 - 23:59

Henry, this is your most damning expose yet of just how badly public servants want to go on deceiving themselves over claims of the effectiveness of their so-called education reforms. They may be able to deceive themselves and may have the official opposition and the media on their side in spinning facts, however, it isn't working and sooner or later the dam will burst.

The truth has to come out. I congratulate you, Henry, on bringing more light to bear. I challenge supporters of the present administration to read this account without prejudice and to say whether official statistics relating to the 'success' and 'effectiveness' of the academies programme are lies or damn lies. I know what I think.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 08:50

John - in 2004 Roger Titcombe and Warwick Mansell found schools with a high improvement rate tended to use equivalent exams as Roger explained yesterday.

In 2008, PwC said some Academies used vocational courses to boost improvement more quickly. This was at the expense of ensuring a “broad and balanced curriculum” in some cases.

In 2011, the DfE published its own analysis which showed how results in many academies fell when equivalents were stripped out (Deposited Paper DEP2011-1453, House of Commons Library).

In 2012, the Telegraph said academy schools "inflate results with easy qualifications".

In 2012, Henry analysed the 2011 results and found "when GCSE equivalents (like Btecs) are removed the academy growth is generally less than in non-academies."

(See faq above "Do academies get better results, or improve more quickly, than other state schools?)

Despite this, politicians and sections of the media boast about results in academies knowing full well these results often depend on heavy use of equivalents.

Congratulations to Henry for exposing this again. Perhaps the persistence of Henry and others in highlighting this will at last grow to a roar.

Guest's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 10:23

Henry you are as guilty as those you try to accuse of using statistics to make a point. Why not find the 2 or 3 most deprived LA schools in an area like Bristol, Birmingham or Oldham and Manchester and compare, as would provide a more relevant comparison, rather than total LAs as chains tend to have taken failing schools in deprived areas only, whereas you are comparing with all schools.

Further why do you use this website to continually attack the majority of our local secondary schools ? There is no balance to anything you state just a continued attack on academies and free schools. It's not really helping the debate on how to improve our children's education.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 11:44

Guest - sponsored academies are not "the majority of our local secondary schools".

You're right that sponsored academies tend to have previously been disadvantaged, underperforming schools and we are constantly told that these improve at a greater rate than all other schools. But, as Henry has pointed out before, and the Academies Commission agreed, when sponsored academies are compared with similar disadvantaged, underperforming non-academies then the increased rate of performance is about the same with non-academies actually performing slightly better.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 11:46

Guest - your point about how Henry's research isn't "helping the debate on how to improve our children's education": Gove and others constantly claim that academy conversion is the only way to improve education but it's not a silver bullet. When schools improve they use similar methods which have nothing to do with academy status (see Ofsted, City Challenge report). This can't be repeated often enough.

So, Henry's research is essential to puncturing the myth that academy status automatically raises the quality of education.

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 12:13

Henry, I don't think it's right to suggest that when equivalents cease to be recognized for performance data the schools that currently rely on them heavily will be below floor target. Presumably, the teaching time and resources currently applied to equivalents will in future be re-focused on GCSE courses, producing a corresponding uplift.

Indeed, if I understand Roger Titcombe 's case correctly, students studying subjects that are more cognitively demanding could, if taught properly, find their performance across the board significantly raised as their cognitive performance improves. 9That wouldn't happen though if teaching equivalents was just replaced by teaching to the test, behaviourist techniques etc.).

Guest's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 13:08

Academies are the majority of our local secondary schools and these schools are continually attacked by the LSN.

Guest's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 13:17

Which government encouraged the use of equivalents in all schools, prizes for all and a dumbing down ? It was of course Labour.
Gove and the coalition should be praised for getting rid of equivalents in all schools.
Additionally more young people are, since the coalition came to power, doing a foreign language, taking separate sciences, history, geography and the like. These are real improvements BUT for some reason the LSN and Henry are trying to bash schools and Gove for the use of equivalents. Bonkers statistics that serve no purpose.

agov's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 13:51

I've probably misunderstood something.

Why are academy chains using worthless equivalences when they could so easily be providing good education to their children and in the process reflecting credit on their owners?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 13:52

Guest - Henry is discussing the use of equivalent exams in academy chains. Academy chains mostly, but not exclusively, have sponsored academies.

There is a difference between sponsored academies and converter academies. The former tend to be sponsored by chains; the latter can be stand-alone or in a chain (but not necessarily sponsored).

For example, CfBT is a chain which has both sponsored academies (eg Oxford Spires) and converter academies (eg Deeping School).

Most schools, academies and non academies, do the best for their pupils. If Henry or others point out that government rhetoric about the superiority of academies is false, it doesn't follow that Henry or others are criticising the work that goes on in individual schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:02

Guest - no-one has denied that Labour didn't encourage the use of equivalents (see my comment above 8.50 which gives a timeline going back to 2004).

Gove hasn't got rid of equivalents - they are the most suitable exams for some pupils. What he's done (rightly) is to reduce their number and remove the spurious "equivalent" so that any equivalent exam will only be worth about one or two GCSEs.

The move towards separate sciences began before the Coalition came to power. Here's a press release about the 2010 GCSE results which show an increase in the number taking separate sciences. The pupils taking GCSE in 2010 would, of course, have started their courses in 2008.

It is encouraging that more pupils are studying history, geography and a modern foreign language. Labour was wrong when it allowed pupils to drop the latter. However, Gove's EBacc are sidelining equally important subjects.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:08

Guest - Gove has denounced equivalent exams. At the same time, Gove praises the results of academy chains which disproportionately use these exams.

That's the purpose of these statistics - to expose Gove hypocrisy.

Guest's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:24

I think it is the hypocrisy of the LSN that is being exposed. Where is the praise for Gove for the excellent work he has done here? There is of course none - just a trawl and rejig of statistics to show that Labours equivalents are still being used, but phased out.

Guest's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:27

Agov, all secondary schools were encouraged by Labour to use these worthless equivalents. Fortunately for our children Gove has denounced them and our schools are phasing them out. Thanks where thanks are due!

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:45

No, Guest, it's a legitimate use of statistics to show the academy chains that Gove praises use the equivalent exams that he's denounced.

Yes, he has removed the spurious GCSE equivalent introduced by Labour who, as I've never denied, were guilty of deception about academies since they began. Gove has just continued the deception. Thankfully, Henry's pointing it out.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:53

Guest - read my 2.02 comment very carefully. I said:

What he’s [Gove's] done (rightly) is to reduce their number and remove the spurious “equivalent..."

You might have missed the significance of "rightly".

Will Littlejohn's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 15:10

Guest - re the comment concerning "worthless equivalents", you might wish to look at the substance of a sample of these before being quite so damning. You are not precise on their 'worthlessness'. Is it the knowledge, practical skills, conceptual understanding, demands on communication skills, ability to predict/hypothesise/summarise, compute, etc etc. I word be grateful for more precision. Will

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 16:06

Guest - I go further than you in exposing the culpability of New Labour. It was not for Blair and Co there would have been no Academy chains to expand and for LA schools to convert to.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 16:10

Guest - The Wolf report dealt with that. The courses in question did not promote, " knowledge, practical skills, conceptual understanding, demands on communication skills, ability to predict/hypothesise/summarise, compute, etc etc "

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 16:10

Sorry Guest, this is a reply to Will Littlejohn.

Will Littlejohn's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 17:10

Guest - in the 197 pages of the Wolfe report it is difficult to find any reference to the said qualifications 'not promoting' the qualities listed.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 17:24

Will - I agree with Roger, the Wolf report did correctly show that the way BTecs are delivered makes the learning poor. But I do agree with what you imply - that it would be possible to deliver a high quality learning experience on the basis of a BTec programme. The problem is that BTecs are only brought in to boost performance tables, so what matters to the school is the grade, not the educational process. I would be in favour of schools providing BTec's if the whole system wasn't strangled by competition and performance tables.

Guest - there is no doubt that New Labour was guilty of wanton vandalism of the education system. I agree that the 'Best 8' measure is an improvement on the '5 inc E&M' measure, and I also agree that the re-emphasis on 'academic' subjects (EBacc) is right. But none of that changes the fact that Gove and co are ideologically committed to the privatisation of state education and they are using wildly false data to support their vision. LSN does a fantastic job in exposing that.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 18:15

Will - The confusion is with 'promote'. What the promoters of the courses claimed they do and the reality are miles apart, as the Wolf report makes very clear. Michael Gove correctly sums up the conclusions of the report in the Foreword.

" Far too many 14-16 year-olds are doing courses with little or no value because performance tables incentivise schools to offer these inadequate qualifications".

What a pity Gove fails to recognise the perverse role of the performance tables in bringing about this disgraceful state of affairs.

Will Littlejohn's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 19:04

Roger - the issue I have is that I posed precise questions and am yet to receive precise answers. Gove's Forward simply adds to the generalisations to all such qualifications. Back to my last comment.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 19:22

Guest, you appear to be skipping over the position that states contextual value added was replaced by value added because social and economic deprivation indices are not barriers to pupil progress and attainment. That is to say, if common expectations are put in place for all pupils of all backgrounds alongside appropriate support interventions, then, all pupils achieve irrespective of background.

This stance is also put forward by Sir Michael Wilshaw both as part of his Mossborough and HMCI experience. You must then overlay the government position (Labour and Coalition) that GCSEs are preferable to equivalents. Furthermore the Wolf report underscore the weaknesses in many equivalent qualifications that worked to the detriment of those worth their accreditation.

Thus whether a school is in a wealthy or deprived area should make no difference and this validates Henry's approach (i.e. progress for all).

For me it is then a legitimate question that the Gove strategy of driving on and the lauding of the academies as the frontline of improvement should be exposed as being inflated by the use of equivalent qualifications whereas LA schools are criticised for using them and channeled down the academy route.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 19:28

Guest, I get the impression that you missed the core point being made by agov. That is to say that the headlong rush into academisation under Gove has not led to a reduction in the use of equivalents that one would expect, and that you imply. Rather they - like all schools - can only use the ones approved since the Wolf report. Not only that but it appears that academies are using them more often that other schools, which is in clear contradiction to the Gove based reforms you praise so highly.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 30/01/2014 - 22:15

Barry - That is indeed my case, and that of the late Philip Adey and Michael Shayer. As for physical fitness, so with mental fitness - no pain, no gain. In both cases the gains are transferable across physical disciplines and school subjects. But it has to be the right sort of physical and mental exercise.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 09:49

Of course this is an imperfect analogy. Although it is possible to take pleasure from both physical and mental exertion, the right kind of teaching is needed for cognitive growth. By pain I mean 'cognitive dissonance' - the effort needed to internalise a new concept that conflicts with a deeply held (often subconsciously) existing concept. This is stressful so other stresses (eg fear of punishment/pursuit of rewards) are best minimised. Unlike 'improvement' based on 4 x GCSE equivalents, cognitive gains, while highly significant will always be far less spectacular, so the abolition of most equivalents will indeed have big implications for the schools whose 'improvement' has been based on them.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 10:21

Henry, you may be interested to note that the vast majority of interim senior leadership roles that are put to me are from academies and arise within E-ACT and AET who are looking to build extra capacity within a school's SLT to support the Principal in improving T&L and/or driving change. Now whether they should be applauded for recognising areas they need to develop is a moot point but equally so maintained schools seem reluctant to do the same. The latter I suspect because of budgetary constraints. There again for some perhaps the old adage 'spend to save' might be worth reconsidering.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 10:38

This DfE press release (Sept 2013) praises the "new generation of academy chains". One is Outwood Grange Academy Trust. Five of its secondary academies reported results in 2013. The three sponsored for two years or longer show results as follows (results with equivalents first, followed by results without equivalents):

Outwood Adwick (2009): 61% down to 24%
Outwood Ripon (2011): 71% down to 22%
Outwood Grange Academy (2009): 84% - 57%

It may be that equivalent exams are actually the best exams for each academy's cohort. Outwood Ripon's 2013 cohort only had 13% previously high-attaining pupils and 29% previously low-attaining ones. But Outwood Grange's cohort was skewed to the top end with 42% previously high-attaining pupils and only 7% previously low-attaining ones.

That said, this is another case of the DfE praising an academy chain which makes heavy use of equivalent exams.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 10:59

Another small chain praised by the DfE in the press release above was Greenwood Dale. Three of its six academies have been sponsored by Greenwood for two years or more. Their results (with equivalents followed by without equivalents) are as follows:

Nottingham Academy (2009): 58% to 36%
Nottingham Girls' Academy (2011): 30% to 28%
Skegness Academy (2010): 51% to 17%

Again, equivalent exams may have been the most appropriate for the cohort. Skegness Academy, for example, is in a selective area. The 2013 cohort only had 14% previously high-attaining pupils and 31% previously low-attaining ones.

However, this is another example of the DfE praising an academy chain which makes heavy use of equivalent exams.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 11:12

Guest, have a quick read of this short but telling article:

"Six out of nine of England's largest chains of academy schools only passed the government's minimum GCSE targets through success in other equivalent qualifications that are soon to be disqualified or downgraded in national league tables, an analysis has found."

It is not simply pointing up the impact of how academies have done (which by the way have their roots in the Thatcherite led CTC revolution) but the utter double standards imposed by the SoS Educ in his relentless drive to academisation and free schools. What was steadfastly not acceptable in maintained schools leading to their conversion to academies suddenly becomes the norm for those same academies.

Guest's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:06

Evidence Andy ? Are more pupils taking English, maths, separate science, foreign languages, history, geography now OR in 2009? Are more pupils currently studying for equivalents now compared to 2009 ?
Why is there a trend to more academic enabling subjects?

Andy V's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:12

Guest, are you asking me, telling me or directing me to find out or is your last statement simply rhetoric?

Guest's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:12

Andy the article you point to is an article based on Henry Stewart's research.
As Churchill once said "I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself."
Where is the article praising the total move away from equivalents that has happened since 2011 ?

Andy V's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:16

Guest, what "total move away from equivalents" or do you really mean the reduction in availability of equivalents? Additionally, with academies making such widespread use of them, what praise is there to offer Mr Gove when his frontline push through academies and their curriculum is exposed for their high use of equivalents?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:23

Guest (reply to your 1.12 comment today - no reply button). The Guardian article linked by Andy was indeed based on Henry's research. But the author was Richard Adams so your Churchill quote doesn't quite fit. Unless you're suggesting that Richard Adams "doctored" Henry's research. If you suspect this then please let us know.

You ask, "Where is the article praising the total move from equivalents?". I refer you to my comment 2.53 yesterday:

'Guest – read my 2.02 comment very carefully. I said: "What he’s [Gove's] done (rightly) is to reduce their number and remove the spurious “equivalent…” You might have missed the significance of “rightly”.'

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:31

I do not take the view that lower ability pupils are 'more suited' to undemanding courses than are higher ability pupils. It is cognitive ability, general intelligence if you like, that drives and enables access to, and success in understanding 'hard stuff'.

The level of a person's ability to comprehend vital issues and concepts in an increasingly complex world is crucial to making rational choices and decisions that have profound implications for individuals, their partners. dependents and society as a whole. Democracy only works if founded on the rational values of the Enlightenment. Pseudo democracy founded on ignorance where votes are dictated by religious and/or ethnic leaders is no democracy at all and is always impossible to sustain.

Sorry to get all philosophical, but this issue is at the core of what education is for. The late Philip Adey is right.

"The main function of the education process from nursery school - maybe as far as first degree level - should be to develop students' general intelligence."
('Bad Education, Open University Press, 2012)

This would be my first objection to KS4 'equivalents' - they don't. My second objection, much emphasised in the Wolf report, is that they are also useless as vocational training in that they do not facilitate access to high quality vocational or academic courses and employers don't value them. Their function was entirely to facilitate the spurious school improvement that the Blair government needed in order to demonstrate that its policy of the marketisation of education was succeeding in raising standards, when it wasn't. Michael Gove is absolutely correct about this.

Pupils do need to acquire subject specific skills and knowledge. They can only do this if their level of cognitive development is up to the particular task. However this is a potentially virtuous circle if the knowledge required is taught by methods that also develop cognitive ability, as this leads to an upward spiral of gains in knowledge, understanding and general intelligence that are mutually supportive.

Much of this can (but doesn't always) happen 'by accident' for able pupils following an academic curriculum in good schools.

Surely less-able pupils are in even greater need of such a developmental curriculum. For this to be available to them, all cognitive gains reflected by the full G to A* (or Gove's proposed 3 - 10 Level scale) have to be equally important and valued accordingly. They are certainly as important to the learner. The education system needs to reflect this. It cannot, as long as progress from D to C is more important than from G to F, E to D or A* to A.

The problem for the marketisers (that appear to include Tristram Hunt as well as Michael Gove) is that this truth prescribes a spectrum of teaching, learning and exam attainment that is much too rich and complex to drive the simple performance indicators needed for parents to make choices in a market.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:32

Andy (reply to your 1.12 comment today - no reply button). I suspect Guest's questions are rhetorical. If you take the trouble to reply it's likely he won't take on board what's said (see my 1.23 comment above).

Guest asked you for "evidence" about the extra take up of subjects like separate sciences since 2011. I'd already said (2.02 yesterday) that the move towards separate science began before 2011 and provided evidence in the form of a press release about the 2010 GCSE results.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 13:37

Guest - you asked why schools are moving towards EBacc subjects. It's because they're judged on the proportion of pupils that take them. The Education Select Committee (2011) said several submissions of evidence suggested the retrospective introduction of EBacc was a politically rather than educationally driven move, as it would, in the words of the Catholic Education Service, “allow the Government to show significant ‘improvement’ in future years”.

And so it has come to pass.

See more at:

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 31/01/2014 - 14:29

Roger - I said the equivalent exams "may be" the most appropriate exams. I used my words carefully. The key question is why is the school offering such courses. If schools are offering them to motivate disaffected pupils, use them properly and don't crowd out other subjects then their use is valid. But if they're offered just to boost exam results then this is not justifiable. Unfortunately, giving vocational courses a spurious "equivalent" did the courses a great deal of harm.

Such exams can be used creatively. For example, the King's School in Devon school offers BTecs in Key Stage 4 one afternoon a week. This is not done to boost exam results - when equivalents are removed the results drop just 1% (71%-70%)

Vocational exams predate Blair . For example (anecdote alert) the school where I taught offered a vocational business course to ALL pupils (very much influenced by TVEI). We also developed our own French/Business Studies course which was accredited by an exam board (I forget which). This comprised French (obviously) and such things as marketing, tourism and entertaining a French visitor (6th formers from a neighbouring school helped with this) with cakes the pupils made themselves.

Great fun and, yes, it did offer a rich experience to the pupils.

Tubby Isaacs's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 20:12

But not sponsored academies.
You're talking about sponsored and converter academies.

Tubby Isaacs's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 20:17

"Agov, all secondary schools were encouraged by Labour to use these worthless equivalents"

But you're missing the point again.
Sponsored academies went for them hell for leather. Gove praised the academy results without even mentioning the use of the equivalents which he condemned.

Tubby Isaacs's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 20:45

Thank you, Henry.

Among the things that jump out at me is that Harris does (slightly) better in the schools it's had for a short period of time than the ones they've had for 5 years or more.

Does that not suggest they've been looking at juicy schools to take over than ones with lots to do over a long period of time?

Tubby Isaacs's picture
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 21:20

"Which government encouraged the use of equivalents in all schools, prizes for all and a dumbing down ? It was of course Labour"

Oh dear. You know All Must Have Prizes was written about the Major era?

IIRC, there was a consensus that equivalents were a good idea in the nineties, given that lots of kids got virtually no qualifications at all.

Clapped out Barry's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 09:08

Guest you are making the common error of assuming that concern over Mr. Gove's policy is bade purely on party political partisanship. careful reading of many of the posts on LSN will show equal concern about Nu lab policies though of course they are less current

Clapped out Barry's picture
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 09:12

Tubby you raise an interesting question. I wonder how much wary success converter academies is due to new school bounce? I know and a converter academy very well that got off to a roaring start, outstanding within 4 years, now in special measures.

The phoney war of constant reinvention of new pseudo marketed solutions ( yes we have had this discussion before on a another platform me with a another name) is now grinding to a halt.

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