English Baccalaureate

January 12, 2011 § 18 Comments

Am cross cross cross about the English Bac. Its a way of arranging the data about Schools to show how many pupils get 5 A*-C passes in ‘rigorous’ subjects – strictly defined (no RE in humanities, no music etc).

1. I’ve argued before that a league table only tells you one thing about a school, and the data is so vulnerable that it generally tells you the wrong thing.
2. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, decided to manipulate the data in this way without reasonable warning. As Christine Blower from the NUT said:  “You can’t have schools judged against things that didn’t exist before.” A previous decision had allowed pupils to drop a modern foreign language. Why should schools now be marked down without warning for the number of pupils who failed to attain one?
If this Government believes in fairness it should have flagged up that it would require the data to be presented in this way in time for schools to do something about it (ie with at least 3 years warning so that option choices can be made with all the inormation to hand).
What Gove has done is to declare that something which wasn’t an offence now is, send someone to prison for doing it while it was legal, and justify it on the basis that the punishment will make everyone buck their ideas up.

3.  The list of ‘rigorous’ subjects not only has some glaring and offensive omissions – isn’t RE a humanity? – but it devalues all the others as well. My two sons want to pursue careers in music and the expressive arts/design. One of them was earning a wage in that field while still at school, and is supporting himself in his gap year doing the same. Well thanks a lot Mr Gove. Not rigorous?

The English Bac is an act of contempt for a teaching profession which was asked to do one thing and has now been attacked for it. It makes a spurious, elitist and dangerous distinction between ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ subjects. Its imposition is duplicitous from a government which is supposedly giving more power to schools: the EB  tells schools what they should do while saying that of course they can choose to do something else if they want to be at the bottom of the league.

I am all for rigour in teaching and learning. I have 13 O levels and did all the sciences, three languages and 2 lots of maths as well as the English I went on to teach. I am all for attainment, the measuring of ability, the stretching of potential. But this is offensive, gimmicky and unworthy of someone who is supposed to hold education and teachers in the highest regard. After the sport debacle it’s the last thing schools need.

This chap clearly agrees!

Education Education

December 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Came across some Primary School League Tables in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. We’ve got three Church Primaries, so I looked with a bit of personal interest at the East Yorkshire section. But even before I started to go down the list I remembered why I hate such things.

1. They are only one version of a set of statistics. As such you need to know lots more about how they were derived – eg one kid having an off day in a small school completely stuffs up the figures. One less academic group in a particular year group and down to the bottom you go.

2. They only reveal a fraction of what it is to be educated, to teach and learn. Whoever said ‘You don’t fatten a pig’ by measuring it’ got it right.

3. Even if there are some measures of achievement that we agree are fair and should be a target for all schools, to then rank schools against each other, as if in competition, is so anti-collaborative as to be downright wicked. Yes, I know that it’s not the Government which ranks them, but by setting the numbers in that sort of format, ranking is inevitable.

Anyway, I looked, and then I was pleased because at least one of my schools refused to do SATs this summer, so they didn’t have a score. And then I was cross because another school I know was in there, and was OK but not at the very top. This one had just done the most amazing Christmas festival production I’ve ever seen. Every child did something, hundreds sang, played, danced and spoke. Beverley Minster was packed, and it was so good the Vicar cried .

If you’ve been around schools for a bit you can just sniff out when something brilliant is happening, and it was, and it could not be measured, and yet as a parent that’s what I’d want my child to experience. I got it again tonight when my Church School did something of equal vibrancy and joy and creativity.

I do hope that new moves in education will keep us up to the mark in speaking and writing and adding and evaluating – and I agree that we should be able to test and to demonstrate aptitude in them. But please oh please let’s liberate schools to do so much more – and to work together, not against each other. My local MP chairs the Education Select Committee. I feel a meeting coming on.

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