“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).”

Your money where his mouth is

Michael GoveProof, if any was needed, that Michael Gove, Education Secretary (above) is using education funding as a way of furthering his ideological agenda. The Guardian has trawled through government data about public spending and has found that, comparing the first year of the Coalition Government (2010-11) to the second (2011-12), the overall education budget reduced in real terms by 5.7%. However,  disproportionately, school infrastructure spending reduced by 81% (the continuing effect of Gove cancelling Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme), and the children, young people and families budget was reduced by 17%, reflecting the curbs on Labour’s ‘Sure Start’ programe. Nonetheless, the academies budget increased by 191% to £5.3 billion (see earlier post).

We now have schools receiving loads of dosh if they become academies – you’ll see them putting up for example a new ‘Expressive Arts Block’ as I saw in Rugby recently, whilst those who don’t take the bribe languish in ever-deteriorationg buildings. In September, the TES surveyed 2000 teachers and 20% thought their classrooms were unsuitable for good teaching and two-thirds said their school’s infrastructure was outdated.

Back in May, the Observer surveyed headteachers and 40% said their school buildings were not fit for purpose.

In July the DfE launched ‘Priority School Building’ for the most desperate examples but any work that does take place must conform to strict austerity guidelines: smaller corridors, cheaper materials, no curves, no glazed areas and no atriums.

picture of a brand new schoolDo our children deserve to be taught in decent buildings? Do our teachers deserve to work in decent conditions that are conducive to good teaching? There is now a real and stark divide in this country between those who ‘made the cut’ and got their new buildings before the rug was pulled (see example, left), or who have since taken the academy route, and the rest. Mr Gove and his friend Sir Michael Wilshaw at OFSTED, are keen on talking about the quality of education children deserve and, obviously, a state-of-the-art new building isn’t everything. But it helps.

“I’m free!”

John InmanWell, it does read a bit like an old-style situation comedy. A free school setting up in Bristol says it won’t be teaching Religious Education (or sex ed for that matter). RE is a statutory requirement and the DfE says the school must be doing it because they wouldn’t have been able to get the funding otherwise. The school says  it isn’t doing it because the parents don’t want it. The DfE says the school will cover the RE requirement ‘appropriately’ (good word!). Oo-er, Missus (no, sorry, that’s another show completely).

Is this what happens when you tell people they are free to choose? Free schools and academies are free to vary the National Curriculum (you might ask, in what sense then is it ‘national’?) apart from English, Maths, Science and RE. This one is going to offer most of the rest of the NC on Saturday mornings. This may seem like a small point but actually, we all ought to care. Firstly, this school is in an ethnically-diverse area of Bristol where children ought to know about the beliefs and customs of  their playmates, not just the ones their parents decide to brainwash them with. Secondly, no school should be able to ‘tack on’ arts and so on as second class subjects. I also wonder what contracts the teachers are working to that requires them to work Saturday mornings.

Driver attacks conductor

It comes to something when even your mates call you a bully. A leading Conservative, Geoff Driver (Leader of Lancashire CC, pictured left), has attacked the Education Secretary, Michael Gove,  describing him as using “bully boy tactics”. Gove, who it must be remembered is also a Conservative, is the orchestrator and conductor of the academies programme which Mr Driver has taken a disliking to.  (I think I’ll leave my little play on words there and invite you to click on Mr Driver’s image to read the full Guardian article on line).

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!

So who do you think YOU are?

So why should you care what I think? And why should you care what I think about education?

Colin Tucker, author

Well, I was a teacher in a secondary school in Derbyshire for a very long time and for a lot of that time I was a member of the school’s leadership team. So I saw close-up how the school wrestled with changes of policy, emphasis and funding over that time and was forced to help make some of those decisions. So I won’t just criticise here – I understand how difficult it can sometimes be to be a senior teacher and have to make difficult decisions.

And I’m a parent. The last headteacher I worked for insisted that whatever we did we had to subject it to ‘the dad test’ (we sometimes suggested it ought to be ‘the mum test’ as well!) But in principle he was right. Educationalists at all levels would make better decisions if they thought about what a good parent would want for their child.