A Week in Education

31st August 2007 at 01:00
Fears over gun crime and youth violence dominated the news this week, after the shooting of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool.

Many commentators were quick to blame schools and parents for creating what The Mail on Sunday described as "a foetid swamp of immorality". Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, David Green, director of think-tank Civitas, laid the blame firmly at the school gates. "How many of the teenagers involved in the recent spate of gang feuds go to disorderly schools, where bullying is the norm and teachers can be told to fuck off without consequence?" he fumed. This was echoed by Alan Smithers of Buckingham University, who told The Sun: "Schools have moved away from teaching our children to behave. Teachers should have the authority to teach self-discipline and good behaviour."

Dealing with gangs, pages 4-5

many newspapers also made the link between increasing gun crime and the level of violence found in GCSE English essays.

Examiners for the Edexcel board said that this year's creative writing essays had proved "sickeningly violent". The Assassin was among the most commonly used titles for coursework, prompting detailed descriptions of gore, but few rounded characters or well-planned plots.

Examiners also bemoaned a tendency for schools to award marks on the basis of quantity, rather than quality. Some essays, riddled with spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, were awarded "incomprehensibly high" marks, they said.

"victory for grammars," trumpeted the Daily Mail, reporting that selective state schools had overtaken the independent sector for the first time at GCSE.

In grammars, 51.5 per cent of exam entries were awarded A or A*, compared with 50.8 per cent of the independent sector. Only 15.3 per cent of comprehensive school entries reached the top grades.

And academies showed a faster rate of improvement at GCSE than schools nationally. The proportion of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at these schools rose by an average of 7 per cent. This year's overall average is not yet available, but last year's was 2.1 per cent.

Nonetheless, the naysayers were quick to denounce such improvements. The Sunday Express summarised neatly: "If our athletes could improve their physical prowess at the same speed that our youngsters are able to improve their exam grades, we'd win every gold medal going at the 2012 Olympics."

GCSE results, page 13

"kids suffer in childcare nightmare," screamed The Daily Mirror, commenting on an Ofsted report, published this week, which judged almost 1,100 nurseries and childcare providers unsatisfactory.

Newspapers competed over the numbers of innocent toddlers being failed by the system. According to the Mail, "tens of thousands... are at risk". The Mirror, meanwhile, insisted it was more like 125,000.

In fact, only 4 per cent of the 27,200 providers inspected were judged inadequate. But a third were told they could be doing more to support learning. Seventy per cent were rated good or outstanding.

Childcare reports, page 9

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