Skids under the EBACC

Michael Gove is reported to be about to make a humiliating U-turn by scrapping plans to replace GCSEs in key subjects with the EBACC. This is in the face of opposition from OFQUAL, the Lib Dems, the Education Select Committee – not to mention the art world and the teacher unions. This  shows that he CAN be shifted if the opposition is strong and united.

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Has he been found out?

Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee

Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee

Alistair Campbell claimed on The Daily Politics on Wednesday night that the Education Committee Report on GCSEs and EBACCs represented the moment at which Michael Gove had been ‘found out’. The Committee warned Gove that he risks destabilising the entire school exam system by rushing through his plans to replace the core subject GCSEs with his Ebacc Certificates. Almost every justification offered by Gove was challenged by the cross-party committee. The Committee is chaired by a fellow Conservative MP, Graham Stuart, who said, “We call on the Government to balance the pace of reform with the need to get it right.” Continue reading

‘The Goveshaw Conspiracy’

The back half of the 'Goveshaw Conspiracy'

The back half of the ‘Goveshaw Conspiracy’

There can be little doubt now that the Education Secretary and the Head of OFSTED are jointly waging a war against teachers and schools that won’t play ball with them.

Michael Gove has employed a many-faceted attack, including either enticing heads and governors down the academy route, or forcing them there if OFSTED have judged them in any sense ‘failing’ (OFSTED chief Michael Wilshaw has obligingly redefined ‘satisfactory’ as ‘needs improvement’, neatly ensuring there is no neutral ground: a school is either up for becoming an academy because of a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ judgement or a candidate for enforced academisation). The campaign being waged also includes the abolition of national pay awards for teachers and the most recently announced measure, the introduction of performance-related pay for all teachers. He wants to put teachers and their unions on the back foot, forcing them to defend pay and pensions which he and his friends in the media, he judges, can easily present as ‘special pleading,’ ‘vested interests’ and ‘restrictive practices’. On another flank he pushes through a wholesale reform of the exam system, taking it back a couple of generations to a non-existent golden age that, nonetheless, readers of the Daily Mail seem to recall as part of a sort of ‘false memory’ syndrome. With the Labour Party somehow unable to mount a full frontal opposition to Gove’s policies or even his patently autocratic style, the best and best-informed opposition would be likely to come from teachers. Pinning them into a corner where they are forced to concentrate purely on pay and conditions is a blatant attempt to neutralise that potential, which my ‘Guest blogger’ and other contributors have been arguing about for the last week.

Continue reading

“The Ebacc is a sad result of political rhetoric and empty intervention”

Click through to the following Guardian article which you may have missed, criticising the proposed and previous assessment regimes,  from assessment expert, Bill Boyle.

“Professor Bill Boyle has been the director of the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies (CFAS) in the school of education, University of Manchester for 20 years and has supported developments in teaching, learning and assessment across the globe during that period. He is currently working with the World Bank on supporting education systems in eight developing countries (Angola, Ethiopia, Armenia, Zambia, Mozambique, Vietnam, Kyrgistan and Uzbekistan).”

“Go back and check for mistakes…” *

brian-lightmanAlways sound advice at the end of an examination and even at this late stage OFQUAL, the exams watchdog, may be forced to go back and correct the results of this summer’s examinations. The High Court starts hearing today the arguments put by, amongst others, Brian Lightman (left) of ASCL (a pretty moderate ‘union’ representing  head teachers and college principals) that OFQUAL and the examination boards acted unfairly in raising the GCSE English grade boundary for achieving a C by ten marks between January and June this year. Schools believe thousands of students were unfairly awarded a D when their work merited a C with, in some cases, serious consequences for students’ future education opportunities. Continue reading

If you don’t want to know the result, look away now…

Latest from Mrs OFQUAL (aka the so-called government ‘exams watchdog’). An edict was issued a couple of weeks ago that students who take the January module of the GCSE English exam. will get their ‘raw scores’ reported in March but not an indicative grade. On the face of  it, this seems sensible as it will enable the exam boards to manipulate the final grades when all the coursework marks and June exam marks are in, thus avoiding an exam debacle two years running (as Oscar Wilde might have said, “To have cocked up one year’s exam results looks like…”, never mind). However, there are problems for schools and students (why on earth does that matter?!).

Examination Hall

Some of the students planning to take the January exam already sat it once (in June at the end of Year 10) . This is their second and last chance (contrary to popular propaganda, students can’t continue taking exams until they pass – they can just take them twice). They can’t do anything about not knowing the result until August although a ‘pass’ in March might give them an incentive to do well in the remaining parts of the qualifications. The dilemma for schools and teachers is, do you continue with the entry they are geared up for in January or continue teaching on the grounds they might do better with more teacher input (has to be offset against the fact they’ll have lots of other exams at the same time)?

Other students, also in Year 11 are (or were) planning to take it early so they could have a second crack in June if they don’t pass. If you don’t know what they got you can’t decide whether they need to take it a second time.

Overall, the main problem has been the lateness of the announcement of the decision although exam boards have offered a ‘free withdrawal’.

It was all my fault…

student sitting an exam

Ok, I admit it: it was all my fault. As one of those teachers who prepared students for the English GCSE last summer, the  debacle that followed – where  students got lower grades than anticipated – was, according to OFQUAL, the fault of teachers. I’ll remind you what happened. Students who sat the paper in January received their marks and an indicative grade in March. Teachers therefore thought they knew what the ‘pass’ mark was when the summer cohort took the exam, hence the big stink when it transpired that the grade boundary had shifted a whopping ten marks. Cries of ‘foul’ rent the air but Mrs Ofqual, (Glenys to her friends) said that the grade boundaries in June were correct and the January candidates had “got lucky”. Various excuses were give for why examiners hadn’t spotted they had been generous in January.

This being England, we had an enquiry. When it reported a few weeks ago,  our Glenys was proper shocked. It turned out those pesky teachers had over marked the ‘controlled conditions’ (what used to be coursework) to ensure their students got a pass. THAT was why the examiners had had to raise the grade boundary in June. Just two teeny problems with that explanation, Glenys : why didn’t this explanation emerge in August (after all, the exam bodies must have known why their grade boundaries were so high)? And second, why didn’t the moderators notice that teachers had marked too high and reduce the marks? You see, every way you slice this, it seems to me OFQUAL was at fault. So, sorry, no, it wasn’t me after all!