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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2002): Education - UK - Schools

A-LEVEL COURSE GRADES ARE GROSS MISREPRESENTATION, SAY HEADS

J. Clarke

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 2

Head teachers have told the independent enquiry into A level grades that examiners grossly misrepresented coursework by lowering grades as sharply as they did. Article goes on to support their case.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 1)

A-LEVEL SCANDAL IS NOT ONLY INCOMPETENCE BUT ALSO DECEIT

D. Johnson

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 26

Argues that political interference has corrupted intermediate institutions such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority that are supposed to safeguard academic standards. Their main concern is now to manipulate statistics, such as numbers of students achieving high grades at A-level, to fit the political requirements of the day.

ACTION ZONES OFTEN WORSE THAN SCHOOLS GIVEN NO EXTRA CASH

S. Cassidy

Independent, Sept. 9th 2002, p. 9

An official analysis has found that the Education Action Zone (EAZ) programme has failed to make adequate improvements in secondary schools despite extra funding of up to £1m a year per zone. The audit which compared zones' examination results with a control group of similarly deprived schools found that the zones improved more slowly on many key measures.

AUTISM IN SCHOOLS: CRISIS OR CHALLENGE?

J. Barnard and others

National Autistic Society, 2002-10-29

Presents the results of a survey of teachers on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in schools. Results showed that 1 in every 86 children have special educational needs that are related to an autism spectrum disorder. Schools also reported that 1 in every 152 children had a formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. This is far higher than the most recently issued official prevalence estimates. The report also gives the schools' perspectives on the major barriers to education service provision for children with autism spectrum disorders, and to what extent these barriers are being surmounted.

BOYS GET BETTER BUT CAN'T CATCH THE GIRLS

D. Charter and G. Owen

Times, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 8

Girls increased their lead over boys for top-grade passes in 2002 GCSE results to nine percentage points, in-spite of the introduction of initiatives to boost boys' performance. The continuing gap in achievement may be due to:

  • anti-learning laddish culture among boys
  • the coursework element of GCSEs favouring girls.

(See also Independent, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 8; Guardian, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 1)

A BROAD BUT TOUGH TEST OF ABILITY

T. Haplin

Times, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 4

Articles looks at how a British baccalaureate would be modelled and outlines the examination's origin and structure.

BUDGET FLIGHTS BOOST GCSE SPANISH

G. Owen and D. Charter

Times, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 1

The 2002 GCSE results show falls of 6.6% and 2.3% in numbers of pupils taking German and French respectively. Numbers of pupils taking Spanish rose by 7%. At A level, the drops were sharper, with falls of 17% in numbers taking German and 13% in numbers taking French.

(See also Independent, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 1; Guardian, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 10)

BULLYING: EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES FOR LONG-TERM IMPROVEMENT

D. Thompson, T. Arora and S. Sharp

London: Routledge Falmer, 2002

Providing an insight into current issues associated with bullying in schools, book explores how it can be reliably assessed and changes in its extent measured.

CLAIMS OF CONTINUED SUCCESS FAIL TO CONCEAL THE WORRYING SIGNS

R. Garner

Independent, Aug, 22nd 2002, p. 9

Highlights worrying trends emerging from 2002 GCSE results, including the fall in the number of pupils taking modern languages, the gap in performance between boys and girls, and the growing gap between top performers and those at the bottom of the heap.

EQUAL ACCESS TO STATE FUNDING: THE CASE OF MUSLIM SCHOOLS IN BRITAIN

M. Parker-Jenkins

Race, Ethnicity and Education, vol. 5, 2002, p. 291-316

Based on a study carried out in Birmingham, England, this article discusses the importance of the home and the school for educational achievement, exploring, at one level, perspectives on teachers and schools and at another, religion and culture within the home.

EQUALITY, FAIRNESS AND RIGHTS: THE YOUNG PERSON'S VOICE

P. Hamill and B. Boyd

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 29, 2002, p. 111-117

Study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of in-school support systems for young people who display challenging behaviour. Pupil support bases in 11 comprehensive schools in Scotland were examined from the perspective of all stakeholders. This article reports the views of the disruptive young people. They emphasized:

  • exacerbation of behavioural difficulties by an inappropriate curriculum;
  • the connection between learning difficulties and misbehaviour;
  • the role of provocation by teachers who fail to show pupils respect and who treat them unfairly.

There was unanimous agreement that Pupil Support Bases were helpful and sometimes prevented exclusions.

EXAM BOARD ADMITS LOWERING GRADES

R. Smithers

Guardian, Sept. 18th 2002, p. 1

A leaked letter from the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations Board has shown that its chief executive intervened to lower the grades achieved by bright pupils in the 2002 A-levels. This was done because combining the 2001 AS-level results with the 2002 A2 results was set to produce too many high grade passes.

(See also Daily Telegraph Sept. 18th 2002, p. 1 + 2; Independent, Sept. 18th 2002, p. 2; Times, Sept. 18th 2002, p. 10)

EXAM BOARDS FACE MASS LEGAL ACTION BY ANGRY STUDENTS

L. Smith and F. Gibb

Times, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 5

Students who lost university places due to the artificial downgrading of their A-level results could sue their examination boards for negligence and possibly breach of contract.

EXAM BODY DENIES A-LEVELS WERE FIXED

S. Cassidy

Independent, Sept. 17th 2002, p. 8

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has rejected schools' claims that 2002 A-level results were deliberately lowered. However, it will investigate the marking of coursework by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA board. Schools are calling for an independent inquiry and some have threatened legal action.

(See also Guardian, Sept.. 16th 2002, p. 5; Times, Sept. 17th 2002, p. 1)

EXAM CRISIS: HEADS SAY ALL A-LEVELS SHOULD BE RE-MARKED

R. Garner

Independent, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 1 + 2

Headteachers have claimed they have evidence that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority "leant" on examination boards to change the grade boundaries for A-levels. They have demanded that all A-level scripts should be re-marked and that there should be an independent inquiry.

(See also Times, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 1 + 4; Financial Times, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 2; Daily Telegraph, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 1 +4; Guardian, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 1 +11)

"EXAM FIX" INQUIRY REFUSED BY MORRIS

R. Smithers

Guardian, Sept. 17th 2002, p. 12

Reports denials by the Education Secretary that government had interfered in A-level marking by ordering the reduction of marks in some subjects because of excess high grades. She also refused to order an independent inquiry into the alleged scandal, saying that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority must first complete an investigation into claims that one of the examination boards had deliberately downgraded marks in 2002 A-levels.

FOR ONCE JARGON THAT WORKS

C. Woodhead

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 12th 2002, p. 23

Article looks at how one school has taken current theories of accelerated learning (high challenge, low threat) and translated them into teaching approaches that are phenomenally successful.

THE GCSE IS NOW AN EXERCISE IN LOG-ROLLING

T. Hames

Times, Aug. 22nd 2002, p. 18

Points out that GCSEs have little predictive value for other examinations, are too academic to help students from poor families, and fail to stretch students intellectually while overburdening them with course work.

HEADS SHOULD SET TEACHERS' PAY TO REFLECT LOCAL COSTS

T. Halpin

Times, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 4

In written evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, the Secretary of State for Education has proposed a move towards locally determined pay. She has also warned that a pay rise for teachers above the rate of inflation is not justified this year, and urged the scrapping of annual reviews in favour of a three year deal from 2003-2006.

(See also Guardian, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 1)

INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS CLAIM PUPILS GIVEN UNFAIR GRADES

D. Turner

Financial Times, Sept. 16th 2002, p. 4

Headteachers of independent schools have alleged that the Oxford and Cambridge and RSA Board deliberately marked down coursework submitted by A-level candidates in English, history and psychology. They suspect that this was done to avoid accusations that high A-level grades are being devalued by their increasing prevalence.

(See also Times, Sept. 16th 2002, p. 7)

INQUIRY INTO A LEVEL STANDARDS: INTERIM REPORT

M. Tomlinson

London: Dept. for Education and Skills, 2002

Concludes that problems over the marking of 2002 A2 level scripts were due to confusion among teachers and examiners about the standard of work required. This uncertainty was due in part to the haste with which the A2 exam was introduced, under ministerial pressure. The examination boards also felt under pressure from the chair of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to avoid any sudden jump in pass rates compared to the old A-levels that would give rise to accusations of grade inflation. Report therefore recommends that A2 exam scripts should be re-marked in certain subjects.

LEA STRATEGY FOR THE INCLUSION OF PUPILS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

Ofsted and Audit Commission

2002 (HMI; 737)

Report found that, although consultation over the strategy for SEN was thorough in most authorities, it was often too lengthy and led to indecision. LEAs found it difficult to:

  • achieve a satisfactory resolution to potential conflicts of interest;
  • articulate and manage the implications of inclusion for the transfer of resources;
  • provide adequately for pupils with behavioural difficulties;
  • define an appropriate role for special schools.

Also describes the system of statementing pupils with SEN as "bureaucratic, time-consuming and costly", and calls for the government to make the funding of SEN much clearer.

LIVE AND LEARN

J. Freedland

Guardian, Aug. 21st 2002, p. 13

Summarises the policies of the newly appointed Education Minister, David Milliband. He proposes:

  • giving headteachers more autonomy;
  • introducing more classroom assistants and mentors;
  • involving outside institutions in local schools;
  • encouraging collaboration between schools.

LOOKING AT THE CURRICULUM IN SUCCESSFUL PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Ofsted

2002

Suggests results could be improved by more imaginative approaches to teaching literacy and numeracy. Inspectors examined 31 schools and concluded that successful schools benefited from using adults other than teachers to inject creativity into teaching. Examples included a crossing warden used to tell stories to encourage reading and use local business leaders used to explain the relevance of English and maths.

MATHS CRISIS IN UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS

W. Woodward and N. Pike

Guardian, Aug. 29th 2002, p. 7

A slump in interest of maths at A level has led to a 5.9% fall in maths admissions to UK universities compared with the same time last year.

MINISTER HAILS LATCHKEY SCHOOLS

R. Smithers

Guardian, Sept. 11th 2002, p. 11

Introduces a newly launched business academy in Thamesmead, Bexley. The school will pioneer a range of innovations including:

  • opening its doors from 7.00am to 10.00pm to allow latchkey children to use its facilities;
  • encouraging parents to use the premises in the evenings;
  • registration by swipe card;
  • dropping of timetabled lessons on Fridays in favour of tuition in citizenship and business.

MINISTER LETS UNVETTED TEACHERS INTO SCHOOLS

S. Cassidy

Independent, Sept. 5th 2002, p. 1

Reports on the government's U-turn in dropping its ban on teachers working without clearance by the Criminal Records Bureau. The change was forced by increasing disruption in schools.

(See also Times, Sept. 5th 2002, p. 1; Guardian, Sept. 5th 2002, p. 2)

MORRIS MAY SCRAP A-LEVELS AFTER SCANDAL

J. Kelly

Financial Times, Sept. 23rd 2002, p. 2

The Education Secretary has hinted that A-levels may be scrapped and replaced by a Baccalaureate style examination in the wake of the 2002 grade fixing scandal.

(See also Independent, Sept. 23rd 2002, p. 1; Daily Telegraph, Sept. 23rd 2002, p. 10; Guardian, Sept. 23rd 2002, p. 6)

MORRIS PLEDGE ON UNIVERSITY PLACES FOR ALL VICTIMS OF "FIX"

T. Halpin and D. Charter

Times, Sept. 20th 200, p. 1 + 4

The Education Secretary has set up an independent inquiry into claims that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority pressured examination boards to reduce the grades awarded to A-level students.

(See also Independent, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 1, 6-7; Financial Times, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 3; Daily Telegraph, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 1, 4-5; Guardian, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 1 + 4)

NON-TEACHERS TO BE HEADS

Anon.

Times, Sept. 18th 2002, p. 10

Government has floated the idea of having state schools run by chief executives without teaching qualifications. It argues that this would encourage people from business and administration to enter the profession.

(See also Independent, Sept. 18th 2002, p. 1; Financial Times, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 4)

THE PLOWDEN VISION REVISITED: MANAGING CURRICULUM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

T. Kerry

Gifted Education International, vol. 16, 2002, p. 213-224

This article examines the contribution of the Plowden Report (1967) to primary education and educational thinking itself. It examines what the report really said about the curriculum and what it did not say. It goes on to discuss how it has been applied since.

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PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SUMMER 2002 OCR A LEVEL AWARDS (PDF format)

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

London: 2002

Report focuses on OCR A-level results in English literature, history and psychology and on students who achieved two A grades and one U grade at A2 level. Found the distribution of coursework grades to be similar to those for written examinations. There was no evidence that coursework in these subjects had been graded more severely. Also found the number of schools with A A U results to be small in relation to the whole student population, and problematic in only a few schools. There was much confusion among teachers about the level of AS and A2 standards, especially in coursework, and some confusion about the use of bands to establish grades. Concludes that the Chief Executive of OCR had acted within his powers in setting boundaries between grades.

PUPILS HIT BY CRISIS OVER STAFF CHECKS: BACKLOG DELAYS START OF SCHOOL TERM

S. Laville and J. Pope

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 30th 2002, p. 1

Reports on delays in vetting teachers by the Criminal Records Bureau. This was set up in April 2002 to provide comprehensive checks on staff before the beginning of the new school year.

(See also Independent, Aug. 30th 2002, p. 2)

QCA LOSES BACKING OF MORRIS IN GRADES ROW

A. Sparrow

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 23rd 2002, p. 10

The Education Secretary disclosed in a TV interview that she no longer has confidence in the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the exams watchdog.

SCHOOL VETTING AGENCY VOWS TO MAKE ITS SYSTEM WORK

J. Kelly

Financial Times, Sept. 13th 2002, p. 4

Describes the role of Capita as partner with the Home Office in the Criminal Records Bureau, whose failure to vet teachers in time for the new school term has become a national scandal. Capita blames the delays on errors in completing application forms.

SCHOOLS, COLLEGES FACE TWO YEAR WAIT FOR BACCALAUREATE

R. Smithers

Guardian, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 6

Reports that schools and colleges wishing to offer the international baccalaureate to post-16 students may have to wait up to two years to gain accreditation.

SCHOOLS TELL PARENT CLASSROOM HELPERS THEY MUST BE VETTED

L. Lightfoot

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 11th 2002, p. 2

Local education authorities are bringing in draconian new rules to ban parents from helping out in the classroom unless they have been vetted and cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

SISTERS JUGGLE BACCALAUREATE'S VIRTUES IN SYSTEM THAT LEAVES OPTIONS OPEN

L. Smith

Times, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 4

Article discusses the progress of one student who decided to take the international baccalaureate because it provided her with a wider range of subjects to choose from.

TEACHERS 10% PAY PLEA 'WON'T WASH'

G. Owen

Times, Sept. 12th 2002, p. 14

Pay demands of five times the rate of inflation by teachers' leaders have added to the governments problems. The unions argue that the rise is needed to boost recruitment. The unions have also been pressurising the government for a reduction in their working week to 35 hours with discussions due to start in the Autumn.

TEACHERS SPLIT IN A-LEVEL ROW

R. Smithers

Guardian, Sept. 24th 2002, p. 6

Discusses the enquiry led by Mr Tomlinson into this year's A level results and looks at the arguments for and against a home-grown version of the baccalaureate replacing the current A/AS levels because there is no longer any confidence in them.

(See also Times, Sept. 24th 2002, p.4)

THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER - REALLY?

J. Clare

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 22 2002, p. 23

The percentage of pupils getting top grades for their GCSEs has risen steadily every year since the demise of "O" levels. Implies that this is due to grade inflation, introduction of coursework, and dumbing down of questions.

THOUSANDS FACE EXAM REGRADING AS SYSTEM IS DECLARED A DISASTER

R. Garner and S. Cassidy

Independent, Sept. 28th 2002, p. 1, 4-5

The Tomlinson inquiry into A-level marking found that exam boards felt that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority had put pressure on them to mark down papers. In consequence the QCA chairman, Sir William Stubbs was pressured into resigning by the Education Secretary. "Tens of thousands" of A-level scripts will now have to be re-marked.

TIME TO PUT A STOP TO THIS GCSE CIRCUS

P. Revell

Guardian, Aug, 22nd 2002, p. 18

Argues that GCSEs should be abolished and replaced by a system based on individual progress. Children could produce portfolios showing what they had actually achieved. They would be expected to reach benchmark standards in the key areas of literacy, numeracy and IT, but there would be flexibility as to when and how.

TOP MARKS FOR AMBITION BUT LABOUR NEEDS ANOTHER TERM ON SCHOOLS

J. Kelly

Financial Times, Sept. 19th 2002, p. 4

Article reviews the Labour government's reform of secondary schools in England, focusing particularly on the vexed question of targets, and how improvements in standards are to be measured.

VETTING HITS PUPILS WHO ACT AS SCHOOL HELPERS

L. Lightfoot

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 13th 2002, p. 9

Some local authorities are demanding disclosure certificates from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for pupils who take part in voluntary schemes to help younger children. Backlogs at the CRB mean that checks cannot be completed on volunteers so the schemes will have to be abandoned.

WINNERS TAKE ALL?

P. Revell

Public Finance, Aug. 2nd -8th 2002, p. 19-21

This article discusses the government's spending priorities and how these reflect its analysis of the major challenges facing education. It takes a long hard look at where all the money is going.

YOU AT THE BACK, STOP MEDDLING

M. Stephen

Guardian, Sept. 20th 2002, p. 18

In 2002, once A-level papers had been marked and grade boundaries set, it became obvious that there was a real increase in the number of students achieving top grades. It is alleged that orders then came from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to reduce the number of top grades in order to avoid accusations of dumbing down. Argues that altering marks arbitrarily for political ends is scandalous. Calls for the examination system to be removed from political control.

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