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Showing posts from August, 2012

A-Levels: Did they get easier? A multi-choice.

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Hazy days have passed since A-level results so it doesn't feel ghoulish to gnaw on a few mouldy bones and see what kind of soup we can make from the stock. Results day has visited, eaten the scones and fled, and like an enormous Sorting Hat for attractive, spring-heeled Cotswolds dryads ('A lawyer you shall be!' 'A civil servant!' 'Ah, alas you shall be an educational blogger') destinies have been ordained or ossified to the rustle of Manilla envelopes.

The time has come, though, to speak of other things (insert joke about cabbages getting into King's here). The A-level pass rate now stands at 98%, and has been rising for thirty years. The % of entries resulting in an A or higher has also been climbing steadily for decades. And now turn away, reader: it has stalled, nay it has nose dived....by an astounding 0.4% this year. IT'S A MASSACRE. This is because Ofqual has 'advised' exam boards to 'err on the conservative side' to tackle w…

Usain Bolt, chinning Russell Brand, and what do we mean by winning?

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Who's the fastest person in the world? If you said that Boltcove then damn your eyes and call yourself an Englishman? It is, of course, Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda, who spanked everyone else in yesterday's Marathon. Fastest man in the world over twenty six miles and change. I'll tell you something else:  it's also Michael Phelps, at least over 100m in water doing the butterfly. It's also Victoria Pendleton, as long as you're talking about the women's (or 'girls' as commentators prefer to describe them, as if they were a clutch of spinsters descending on a tearoom, or Miss Jean Brodie's pride) keirin, which I think might be a boy's name.

Oh, I'm sorry, did you mean the fastest man over 200 metres? Or perhaps the man who obtained the fastest unassisted speed at any point in his event? The answer you get depends on the question you ask.

But at least there are benchmarks; cornerstones of absolute truth that we can all agree upon. Usain Bo…

Lessons from the Olympics 2: Wanting the World is not enough

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It's like opening a window and smelling fresh air. Listening to people's reactions to the Olympics is almost as heartening as watching the damn thing themselves. Any cynicism about our four weeks of superhuman gasping is lying low for now like dry ice, and boy, is the air clear up here. There are plenty of things to get snippy about, to carp and mew and harrow; this is not one of them. No event is beyond reproach; nothing is ideal. But at least this aspires to be.

One of the saddest things I ever met in teaching was in a poor, poor school in a rough, rough area, where, when you asked the kids to what they aspired, they replied- seriously- 'the dole'; 'ASDA'; 'hustling'. That taught me that the cages we build inside our minds are at least as important as the economic circumstances from which we emerge. Being wealthy isn't enough- it sure helps, of course, and the concomitant support and culturally inherited aspirations are strongly correlated with t…

Lessons from Poland: why international comparisons are sometimes odious

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Dzien dobry.

I recently spent some time in Poland. I promise not to make this a 'what I did in my holidays blog' because there's enough of them and one day the internet will be full and then we'll all be sorry and I'll point to the kitten Tumblrs and Facebook inventories of people's childrens' stools, and I'll say 'You did this.'

So, Poland. I've been many times, seen Polish schools, spoken to Polish teachers, and worked with Polish teachers who have also worked in the UK state system. If you read the latest reports, you would think (correctly) that Poland is some kind of Eastern European educational tiger. Its school system has been collecting laurels like Michael Phelps attracts gold discs on ribbon.

'The most recent test results from the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) show that Poland is ranked 14th for reading, ahead of the USA, Sweden, France and Germany - and well ahead of the UK in 25th''…

The Olympic Legacy for Education

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As I write, the Übermensch are making nations of boggling Calibans like me vibrate with silent, reverential awe as they caper, vault and hammer on the envelope of human possibility. Something wonderful has accompanied them; the cynicism and (sometimes justified) schadenfreude about the bureaucracy of the project has been swept away in a touching Mexican Wave of sincerity and admiration. From the first bars of Danny Boyle's satisfying smörgåsbord of wit, sentimentality and spectacle, even the Olympic pedants of Twitter were struck dumb, like a mass, Damascan conversion in cyberspace.

 So what does it signify? A goldmine of meaning and understanding about what we value and how we choose to achieve it. These games are the incarnation of what we perceive to be excellence, the word made flesh. And that scans precisely onto education; already the chattering classes (of which I am a citizen) have started grumbling for their countries: Lord Moynihan has stated that the independent sect…

Train wreck: why lowering the QTS bar is a threat to education

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T'was midnight in the classroom 
and all the desks were shut.
When suddenly 

the DfE 
produced a quiet ‘Cut-cut’

Said Gove to we
‘I don’t like T, 

or Q so close to S.
Academies have said to me
‘Our schools are in a mess.’'

The powers-that-be, the DfE 

 declared a novel route: 
not GTP nor ITT 
for schools now to recruit

So Gove was cheered by nobody

as schools snoozed on the beach.
The problem never seen before 
was teachers trained to teach.
You will forgive my hack verse. Barely droll near-poetry seems as good a response as any to the bizarro-edict that has united almost every teacher: the announcement that in future, schools won’t have to hire teachers with QTS. Which means for the first time in several decades, state schools can recruit staff with no teacher training to teach, with no requirement that they eventually obtain such a novelty.

A DfE spokesman said that ‘academies had been asking for this freedom,’ to which my obvious response is, ‘Well, how about if we all start makin…