Tag Archives: Chris Keates

Overall GCSE Grades risen, butt ay drop inn Inglish

It’s another results day! This time for those hundreds of thousands of pupils who have battled through the wonderful world of GCSEs.

As you can tell from the title, there has been quite a significant drop in the English GCSE results, however the overall number of those achieving the A*-C grades have risen on average across all subjects. So it looks like on average we’re improving, but become seemingly less literate. Slightly worrying …

Exam officials revealed that 68.8% of entries scored A*-C, up 0.7 percentage points on last summer. However, The proportion of pupils getting the top A* grade across all subjects fell slightly to 6.7%, down from 6.8% last year.

There were significant differences between the A* to C grade results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – where increasingly dissimilar versions of GCSE are being taught. Results rose in each of the three education systems.

There have been warnings of “volatility” in results following an overhaul of the exam system. Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, reported “increased volatility” in the results being received by schools. A “significant minority” had not received their predicted results, he said, with schools with many disadvantaged students having been “hit the hardest”. “The volume of change has made year on year comparisons in GCSE results increasingly meaningless. It is almost apples and oranges,” said Mr Lightman.

Andrew Hall, head of the AQA exam board, said the most significant impact on this year’s results has been the big fall in younger pupils taking exams a year early. Changes in the league tables discouraged schools from such multiple entries. I am still not convinced this isn’t holding back those children who are capable of getting high quality grades a year earlier. I don’t agree with schools using this system to as a pass to get more than one attempt at these GCSEs, but if they are capable of getting an A* or an A a year early, then let them.

It is important also to remember that across the three nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst all have the same name of GCSEs, they are in fact different courses because the reforms such as the switch to linear, non-modular courses and less coursework, have applied only to England.

The results in English seem to have been most affected, with the number of A*-C grades down 1.9 percentage points to 61.7%. This was also influenced by the removal of the “speaking and listening” element of the subject.

The CBI’s deputy director general, Katja Hall, said exam reforms have helped to increase “rigour”. But from an employer’s perspective, she said more was needed to ensure a GCSE grade was an accurate measure of “skills they can bring to the workplace”. The removal of speaking and listening from the English GCSE was “particularly concerning”, said Ms Hall. She also warned that “we cannot continue to turn a blind eye” to the question of whether there should be such an exam for 16 year olds.

There is still a significant gender gap in this year’s results, with 73.1% of girls’ exam entries achieving A* to C compared with 64.3% for boys.

Exam officials also highlighted a fall in the numbers of entries for biology, chemistry and physics, the first such decline for a decade.

Another factor that can be considered an influence has been the ability of some schools, notably free schools and academies, to hire unqualified teachers, which is something highlighted by Tristram Hunt. “It is now the case that some of the pupils who have received their grades today may have higher qualifications than the teachers who will be teaching them at the start of the next school term,” claimed Mr Hunt.

Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, warned of “shocks in store” for some schools, depending on “how much they relied on gaming the old system”.

“All of this piecemeal change to GCSE means that is incredibly difficult for schools to forecast what grades students might expect to achieve, or indeed to compare the school’s results with previous years,” said head teachers’ leader Brian Lightman. Young people are not statistics. They are individuals whose life chances depend on these results. They have worked extremely hard for these exams and been conscientiously supported by their teachers. I hope that their results do them justice.”

Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said this year’s GCSE exam entrants had to “cope with a raft of rushed through and ill-conceived changes to the qualifications system and so today’s results are especially commendable”.

The National Union of Teachers’ leader Christine Blower said that the headline figures “mask underlying issues which will only become clear over time”. “We must ensure that changes being made to our qualifications system do not unfairly disadvantage specific groups of students, including those with special educational needs or those from backgrounds of economic disadvantage.”

As always, if you either have students receiving their results or are in fact a student receiving your results, I hope you all got the results you were striving for and will continue on to achieve your potential in whatever route you go down.


Head teachers earning 6 figure salaries

Pay and pensions has been in the media an awful lot lately, what with strikes happening just about every month and achieving nothing apart from annoying families who have to work and those outside of the profession with it constantly rearing it’s ugly head in the news. You’ll be pleased to know this isn’t another one of my rants about striking.

Instead this one is about news that nearly 1000 head teachers are earning 6 figure salaries (over £100,000) according to figures published by the Department for Education, which immediately makes the thought of ‘more transparency needed’ come to mind.

This figure has risen more than a quarter (29%) of the number earning such salaries in comparison to 2 years ago. The question has to be asked in some people’s mind: Are schools abusing public money bit like the banks?

I will be honest here, the figures do show that around a third of these high earners are heads of Academies, which have considerably more freedom over pay than schools controlled by the state.

The Department for Education suggested the increase reflected a rise in the number of successful heads now enlisted to run more than one school. Ministers have actively encouraged the model to ensure more schools benefit from the experience of senior teachers with a proven track record.

But classroom unions criticised the disclosure, warning that pay is often set in “secrecy” with little requirement to publish full details of salary levels. For example, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said many top heads had “benefit packages” including private health care, company cars and additional holiday with “no requirement to make any of it public”.

“Head teachers should have their annual salaries published in a clear and transparent way like every other person in senior public service positions,” she said. “It’s scandalous that schools in receipt of millions of pounds of public money do not have a requirement show exactly what they pay their heads.”

An annual census published by the DfE showed the state of the state school workforce in England. According to data, 900 heads are earning six-figure salaries in the current 2013/14 academic year. This includes 300 taking home over £110,000 and the rest paid between £100,000 and £109,999. The number of six-figure salaries was up on 700 in 2011/12 and 800 in 2012/13.

It is thought that the number of large pay awards could be much higher because another 600 senior leadership salaries were declared as “misreported”.

Overall, the average salary of a school leader at any type of state school now stands at £56,100 – compared with £55,700 in 2012 – although this includes assistant and deputy heads. The average classroom teacher in England takes home annual pay of £34,600 – up by 1.3 per cent, or £500, on last year.

I’m a mathematician, so I love a good few stats, so here come some more …. Other figures show:
• A record total of 451,100 full-time teachers are working in English state schools – up 9,100 up on the previous year;
• Some 17,000 teachers are officially registered as “unqualified” – an increase of 16 per cent in a year following the introduction of Coalition rules allowing schools to employ staff without proper teaching qualifications – prompting claims from Labour that the Coalition risked “damaging school standards”;
• A total of 750 posts – 0.2 per cent – were vacant in November 2013 when the census was completed, compared with 0.1 per cent a year earlier;
• More than 288,000 teachers – 57 per cent – took sick leave last year, up from 55 per cent a year earlier, with the average absent teacher missing eight days.

So what do these statistics tell us? Well it would appear to tell us that more people are entering the profession as the number of people working is rising, but these people are not necessarily qualified in their role and are pulling a few sickies. What the stats also show that yes more people are entering the profession, but the percentage of vacancies is on the rise at a faster rate, calling into question whether enough teachers are entering the profession to plug the gap.

Last year, the Government’s independent review body on teachers’ pay announced plans to give all schools more flexibility over senior leaders’ pay.

A DfE spokesman said: “It’s essential we have the best people in place to lead our schools if we are to raise standards. That’s why decisions on pay are down to schools – so they can recruit and retain the highest calibre of school leaders. As the nature of school leadership changes, these reforms will give schools greater flexibility to help schools ensure the most talented leaders are attracted to the teaching profession and are properly rewarded for taking on multiple or challenging schools.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The average pay of a head teacher in England is £56,000 – far below the headline grabbing paychecks and far less than their skills would earn in the private sector. Those on six figure salaries are often responsible for leading several schools and all heads have high levels of scrutiny and accountability, work every hour available and care for the futures of thousands of children. Their leadership matters and if you want the best, you need to pay for it.”

As if you haven’t had enough stats, I’m gonna finish with some more. Here we go …

Thousands of schoolchildren are being taught by teachers who fail to hold to a university degree their specialist subject, new figures show. Lessons in core disciplines such as maths, English, history, geography, languages and the sciences are routinely being led by teachers with qualifications no higher than an A-level in their chosen area, it emerged.

Figures show 22.4 per cent of maths teachers and 20.1 per cent of those teaching English have “no relevant post-A-level qualification”. The proportion rises to 53.2 per cent in religious education, 49.9 per cent in Spanish, 33.5 per cent in physics, 33.4 per cent in geography, 27.2 per cent in history, 24.1 per cent in French, 23.9 per cent in chemistry.

Figures also showed that a total of 17,100 teachers were registered as “unqualified” – those without full qualified teacher status – this year. It was up by 16 per cent compared with 2012/13.

Labour said the introduction of Coalition rules allowing unqualified teachers to work permanently in English state schools risked “damaging school standards”. But the figures also include trainee teachers who are working towards full teaching qualifications. The Coalition has actively encouraged more students to train as teachers “on the job” rather than in universities.

The DfE also said a record 96 per cent of teachers now had degree-level qualifications or higher – 43,000 more than in 2010. A spokesman said: “More top graduates are coming into teaching than ever before and a record 96 per cent of teachers now hold a degree. Our reforms are putting teachers in the driving seat. Through academies and free schools, we are giving heads and teachers more power over what happens in the classroom and freeing them from interference by politicians. That’s good news for teachers, who can get on with their jobs, and good news for parents, who can be confident that teachers are solely focused on ensuring the best possible outcomes for their children.”

For me personally, letting all these unqualified teachers in can be a dangerous game with our education system, but I don’t buy the argument that teachers are not good enough at their subject if they don’t have a degree in it. Unless you actually teach that degree, in which case you will almost certainly need it, you don’t need that high a qualification to teach. It has been my belief that you should be qualified up to the point where you are going to teach, so if you are going up to A level, that’s what you need. I understand that knowing higher than that might allow you to inspire the kids to take up the challenge themselves, but as a mathematician, it’s hard enough to motivate kids to do maths at any age in the current climate …

More top graduates training as teachers?

The proportion of trainee teachers with top degrees rose to an unprecedented level in 2011-12, according to the latest official figures.

Two-thirds of postgraduate trainees in 2011-12 had a first or a 2:1, data from the Department for Education suggests. This was a rise of three percentage points on 2010-11.

Teaching unions welcomed the figures but said the overall picture on teacher recruitment was patchy, with evidence of shortages in some areas.

However Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, said the figures were extremely good news. “Children deserve excellent teachers and today’s statistics show the profession is attracting more of the country’s top-tier graduates,” said Mr Taylor.

Some 12% of postgraduate trainees, more than 3,000, had a first class degree, up two percentage points on the year before. And the proportion of those with a 2:1 was 55% or almost 15,000 – up one percentage point.

There was a two percentage point fall in the proportion of those with a 2:2 – to 27.4% or 7,450 trainees – and a very slight drop in those with third class degrees, the government says.

Overall, 32,900 trainee teachers completed their courses in 2011-12. Of these 27,144 were postgraduates.

The figures also showed a rise in the number of newly qualified teachers getting jobs within six months of qualifying.

Of those whose employment status was known, some 91% had secured a job by January 2012 – a rise of at least 5% on 2010-11. “Schools recognise this increase in quality and more trainee teachers are finding jobs quickly,” said Mr Taylor.

The figures combine data on the numbers of teachers trained by universities, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, as well as figures for non-university trainees collected directly from training providers by the National College for Training and Leadership. These figures pre-date the government’s School Direct programme which began the following year. School Direct is designed to boost the numbers of teachers trained directly by schools with support from universities.

Some experts have raised concerns that the picture from more recent years may be of emerging shortages of teachers in some areas.

Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College leaders described the increases in the number of trainees with good degrees as “very good news”. “However, there are still issues with certain subjects and in certain areas of the country. Many schools report that they are struggling to recruit high quality teachers in core subjects, especially maths, English and science. With the recent changes to initial teacher training, the big picture about where the gaps are has been lost. It must be a priority for the government to reinstate a national strategy for ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of high quality teaching graduates coming through in every subject.”

Chris Keates of the NASUWT teaching union said the increase in the proportion of trainee teachers with top degrees began “long before this government took office”. “Today’s figures simply confirm the continuation of this long-term trend and reflect continuing increases in the proportion of 2:1 and first degrees awarded by higher education institutions.”

Ms Keates added preliminary figures for the following year suggested a fall in the number of applicants for teacher training places of “almost 15%” in 2012. “Concerns expressed by teachers, school leaders and training providers that the teacher training system is heading towards crisis continue to be ignored by ministers. The adverse implications of the DfE’s policies on pay, conditions and professional status are undermining the attractiveness of teaching and placing the sufficient supply of high quality graduate teachers at serious risk.”