Tag Archives: Christine Blower

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.


More pupils than places, say LGA

Almost half of England’s school districts will have more primary pupils than places within two years, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said. Some local areas will face a 20% shortfall in places by 2015, according to analysis of official data from 2012.

Rising birth rates began the squeeze but uncertainty over funds has made it worse, the LGA says.

The government says it has more than doubled funding for new school places. A bit of a strange move when the government criticised a labour argument about a shortfall of places saying that there were 400,000 ‘surplus places’ in certain parts of the UK

The LGA’s warning comes as the government opens 93 free schools – 46 with primary places – raising the total to 174 and providing 43,000 new school places.

Free schools and academies are approved directly by the Department for Education, and councils say this can limit their ability to plan strategically, especially as they have no powers to force such schools to expand or close in response to changes in demand. The LGA wants a ban on any new free schools opening where there is a surplus of places.

Most of the free schools opening this year are in areas under pressure, but not necessarily those under the most pressure, meaning that there are still going to be areas where places are short.

The LGA’s analysis of local authority data on school-place needs suggests about 1,000 of the 2,277 local school planning districts will be over capacity by 2015-16. The greatest pressure is focused on about 99 districts, where 20% more pupils are predicted than places.

However, the findings do not take into account some recent steps to increase school places because the analysis is based on official figures from the last academic year.

Councils have always used predictions of need to make school-building and expansion plans.

Overall, two thirds of local authorities predict they will have more pupils than places by the beginning of the 2016 academic year. Some 40 local councils are predicted to be 10% over capacity, with 15 of those predicting a 20% surplus of pupils over places.

Peterborough, Redbridge, Ealing, Bristol, Lewisham, Slough, Maidenhead, Sutton, and Barking and Dagenham will have to increase the number of school places by at least 20% to ensure every child gets a place, the LGA said.

LGA education chairman David Simmonds said councils were facing “unprecedented pressures” in tackling the “desperate shortage” of new school places. Some schools have already converted music rooms, libraries – even a police station in one case – into classrooms.

The LGA is calling for the DfE to work more closely with local councils, so planning for emerging demand can be better managed.

Mr Simmonds said free schools were a “small part of the overall picture”, but parents in hard-pressed areas would understandably ask why money was being spent on extra free school places in areas where there were already vacancies.
He said the key thing was to ensure that £5bn recently made available by the government to boost capacity was spent quickly and efficiently in the areas where it was most needed. “We need to make sure that money comes through the local authority who are often ready with their shovels and diggers to get work under way immediately.”

The LGA also says the fact that the DfE has used four different methods for funding school places since 2007 has led to a piecemeal approach – and all the money should, in future, come from a single pot.

As you would expect, no political party is going to accept responsibility for this situation. Michael Gove accuses Labour of ‘neglecting areas of need’ and goes on to accuse Labour leader Ed Miliband of being ‘too weak to stand up to the unions and back free schools’. My question to you Mr Gove is why should he back a programme that is building schools in areas that already have a surplus number of places when there are areas that haven’t got enough places? It seems to me that the person neglecting areas of need here is not Labour at all.

The New Schools Network, which helps groups set up their own schools, said free schools were on track to deliver more than 250,000 new places by 2015.

But National Union of Teachers leader Christine Blower says free schools are an entirely unnecessary expense at a time when there is a chronic shortage of school places around parts of the country because many are being opened where there is already a surplus of school places.

Basically to sum up this whole article, the school places problem is in a complete mess and politics has made it that way. And some people wonder why I believe education should not be political …