Ofsted on PE, GCSE English regrade rejected and other educational news

13th February 2013 at 15:08
Ofsted, the draft National Curriculum, and the High Court's rejection of a GCSE English regrade - get all the latest news, brought to you by the TES editorial team.

Will a new scorecard system help Haringey schools to join London's stellar cast? - 15 February 2013

Hot on the heels of news that Ofsted will be poking its nose into local authorities where schools are underperforming, Haringey Council has announced this week that it will be accepting a raft of recommendations to improve itself and its 80 primaries and secondaries.

A commission led by former Hackney primary school head Dame Anna Hassan (and including TES editor Gerard Kelly) has put forward a number of proposals to ensure that every school in the borough is judged "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted within the next three years.

Among the most eye-catching of the recommendations is a plan to introduce scorecards for every school, giving parents more accessible information about their children's places of learning.

According to the report, the scorecards would provide parents with a range of information, including Family of Schools data, which will compare a child's school with others of a similar makeup elsewhere in the borough and across London.

"The scorecard would also provide parents with advice about how they can best support their child's learning and so help improve overall school results," the report states.

The commission also suggested bringing in new "pupil passports", which would give essential information to schools on a child's attainment as well as other strengths and weaknesses. The data could primarily be used when a pupil moves school, particularly when transferring from primary to secondary, but could also be utilised when they are moving between key stages.

Much of the rest of London has been described as a beacon of excellence for dramatically improving results over the past 10 years or so. The likes of Westminster and, particularly, Tower Hamlets have shown how, despite their demographics, impressive results can be achieved.

It is fair to say this say this is part of Haringey's bid to catch up. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Richard Vaughan

Pressure mounts on government over imminent school sport funding announcement - 14 February 2013

Today's Ofsted report on PE and sport in schools comes at an awkward moment for the government.

Ministers are expected to make a long-awaited announcement on funding for school sport in the next few weeks, and the conclusions all over this morning's news will have heaped additional pressure on the civil servants ironing out the details.

The Ofsted PE report is clear that ministers must find funding for a new school sport scheme or risk failing to capitalise on the sporting legacy left by last summer's Olympic Games.

It also reopens old wounds over school sports partnerships, which were killed off by education secretary Michael Gove not long after the coalition government was formed in 2010. It was, the report says, "clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited" that the initiative increased regular competitive sport - something that Mr Gove and Prime Minister David Cameron have said they want more of.

It goes on: "A commitment from the government to invest in a new strategy for PE and school sport is needed if [the Olympic] legacy is to be maintained. This survey confirms that national funding over the past four years has led to considerable improvements."

It is clear that a lot is riding on the funding announcement - expected not long after next week's half-term - for both schools and their political masters. No pressure, then.

Richard Vaughan

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

Left with no alternative, the unsuccessful court case was the only option - 13 February 2013

The alliance that made a legal bid to change grade boundaries, rejected this morning, did so because it believed it was the only means of redress for the more than 30,000 pupils believed by their schools to have been unfairly awarded D rather than C grades in GCSE English.

Ofqual issued two reports last year on the controversy, but its critics would not accept that the watchdog - an active participant in last summer's grading - was sufficiently impartial.

They pointed out that when a similar A-level grading scandal had erupted in 2002, a speedily convened independent inquiry led to nearly 10,000 papers being regraded. This time, ministers merely pointed to the Commons Education Select Committee, which had held only one hearing on the subject and issued no reports.

So it was court or nothing and now, more than five months later, we finally have a verdict. But for the pupils involved it is far too late anyway - they either re-sat in November or just got with their lives, D grades and all.

The judgment emphasises that the court was ruling on the specific question of how Ofqual and the exam boards "sought to deal with the [grading] problems once they had materialised".

The judges acknowledge they have not dealt with the problematic modular structure of the GCSE or the fact that, as TES revealed, Ofqual had anticipated those problems years in advance but failed to act.

Changes to English GCSE grading next year and the end of modular GCSEs should prevent any exact repeat of last summer's problems. But details that have emerged during the affair have not been kind the exam system as a whole.

Read more about the GCSE grading scandal here and in this Friday's TES magazine.

William Stewart

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

GCSE regrade arguments rejected by High Court - 13 February 2013

High Court judges have roundly rejected the arguments of campaigners seeking "justice" over last summer's GCSE English grading fiasco.

Lord Justice Elias and Mrs Justice Sharp gave their judgment at the High Court in central London this morning.

An alliance of hundreds of pupils, schools, local authorities and teachers' and heads' unions argued at a hearing in December that exam boards AQA and Edexcel had unfairly pushed up the boundaries for GCSE English in an act of "illegitimate grade manipulation" involving exams regulator Ofqual.

The judges were told that an estimated 30,000 pupils who sat the exams last summer had unfairly missed out on the all-important C-grade.

Barristers acting for the campaigners said they were dissatisfied with Ofqual's two reports on the scandal last year and turned to legal action in the absence of any independent inquiry.

In a statement released after the result, Ofqual chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: "We welcome the decision of the court that, faced with a difficult situation, Ofqual did the right thing and the fairest thing, for the right reasons.

"It's clear from the judgement that if we had followed the course of action called for by the claimants, the value of GCSE English would have been `debased', to use the judge's own word, and many students would have received grades that they did not deserve."

Read more about the GCSE grading scandal here. More reaction will follow later this morning.

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

We need to make Britain as a whole more like Finland, not just the schools - 12 February 2013

With its pound;30,000-a-year independent schools and yawning chasm between rich and poor, Britain was never likely to score well on any new social equityachievement gap scale.

The OECD group of industrialised countries shone a spotlight on this issue today, releasing an analysis highlighting how poor children in the UK are less likely than those in many other member states to perform as well in school as their richer peers.

While overall our pupils score a little above average in the reading tests, the gap in achievement between rich and poor children is considerably above the norm. We occupy the same territory as France and the US on the scattergram of (in)equity. New Zealand performs better in the tests but the gap in performance is roughly the same.

We're by no means the worst - Germany, Belgium and Hungary have similar test results and bigger gaps in achievement - but this surely should not get us off the hook.

But can school systems alone fix this? Education secretary Michael Gove believes that a proliferation of academies and free schools should do the trick. In these, academic rigour and teachers with nothing less than the loftiest ambitions for their unruly charges will transform society.

No one should be under any illusions about the size of the challenge. A data analysis by the Financial Times, published in February last year, showed a direct and strong correlation between schools' overall GCSE performance and the socio-economic background of pupils. It may seem like a no-brainer to teachers, but it's poverty, not schools, that is holding children back.

Another 2011 OECD analysis found that the gap between rich and poor had grown faster in Britain since 1975 than in any other of its 34 member states.

So the fundamental point remains that this not really an educational issue; it is societal. Perhaps we Brits need to attempt to make our country more like Finland as a whole. But without the snow.

Irena Barker

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

Judgment day looms for GCSE English fiasco - 11 February 2013

The wait has been tortuous. But an alliance of pupils, schools, teaching unions and local authorities will learn this week if its legal challenge over last summer's controversial GCSE English grades has been successful.

High Court judges are expected to give their verdict on Wednesday, potentially deciding the fate of thousands of pupils who took Edexcel and AQA exams last year. It will be the culmination of a battle that has dragged on for more than six months.

The alliance took the case to court because of its members' serious concerns about the increase in grade boundaries between January and June 2012. They say it resulted in thousands of pupils being awarded D instead of C grades and many secondaries failing to reach government targets.

The campaigners were dissatisfied with Ofqual's two reports on the scandal last year and turned to legal action in the absence of any independent inquiry. The judicial review took place in December.

Many pupils, teachers and heads will experience a sleepless night this Tuesday. It is a very big deal indeed.

NB. Here is some GCSE grading scandal background reading.

Irena Barker

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

What a week that was for education. And you can read all about it here - 08 February 2013

At the end of an extraordinary week for English education, here is a quick round-up of all the content we've produced to help you get your head around the proposed national curriculum reforms.

Our subject advisers have been hard at work, picking out what they feel are the main curriculum talking points from their specialist areas. Head over to the landing page to find out what the main changes are in primary, English, maths, science, MFL, history and geography.

Alessio Bernadelli, TES's science adviser, has even put together a downloadable document allowing you to compare the exact changes in wording between the current and the proposed science curriculum.

On Monday, we'll be hosting a webchat with TES Primary subject adviser Colin Hill and TES magazine's primary correspondent Helen Ward. This is your chance to ask any questions or air any opinions you may have about the reforms proposed by the government. It kicks off at 6pm.

As well as all this extra content, don't forget to keep an eye on this blog for all the breaking news and opinion on the national curriculum reforms.

Sarah Cunnane

- Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think

Analysing the language of the new curriculum - 08 February 2013

TES English subject adviser Chantel Mathias has made an interesting and subtle observation after trawling through the new curriculum. She has spotted that whereas in the current programme of study you will repeatedly find the phrase "Pupils should be able to", in the new one you find "Pupils should be taught to".

This, she thinks, is telling. Why? Well, here is her analysis:

"Pupils should be able to"


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today