Who deserved a medal this summer?

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
It just wouldn't be summer would it, if we didn't have the usual debate over exam results?

As sure as night has followed the rainy days this July and August, so the perennial argument over standards has raged - are GCSEs and A-levels getting easier or are teachers and pupils just working much harder? Hasn't anyone come up with a conclusive answer yet?

But there was good news as early as mid-July about key stage 2 results and, just as teachers were breaking up for the summer, The TES brought the news that English scores were likely to improve after a stagnant four years.

And so it proved to be. While test scores in English reached a new high with 77 per cent achieving level 4, doubts remained that the targets of 85 per cent for 2006 could be met.

While targets were once the stuff of political resignations, David Miliband, schools standards minister, seemed remarkably laid back, saying that at least this year's results meant "we have got the right direction of travel".

No hint though as to whether this was on, or off, the "bus of reform".

The glad tidings were never likely to last and barely a week had passed before it all went belly-up for key stage 3 English tests. Bungled changes to marking schemes led to question marks over the validity of all 600,000 test scores, leaving students, their parents and teachers with no results.

So far no date for publication has been set as officials strive to sort out the mess.

Ofsted! The Musical proved to be a sell-out success at the Edinburgh Festival. Teachers, despite being on holiday, could not resist the show. "I came because I knew it would be a satire, and it's good to laugh at the things that scare you," said Pippa Donati, an English teacher at East Berkshire college.

Elsewhere in Auld Reekie, teachers and pupils trod the boards and worked the spotlights in their shows, jostling for the limelight with the likes of Christian Slater and Nicholas Parsons.

Meanwhile in Athens, teachers were representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland in disciplines including judo, archery, synchronised diving and rowing. Chemistry teacher Alison Mowbray won a silver in the rowing and Alison Williams, a primary teacher, won a bronze in archery.

The TES was busy this summer, discovering that two academies paid out large sums to companies their private-sector sponsors have interests in. West London academy, Ealing, paid pound;180,964 to businesses and a charity connected to its sponsor, Alec Reed, chairman of Reed Executive, a recruitment agency. Middlesbrough academy was billed pound;290,214 by organisations and individuals with connections to Sir Peter Vardy, its car-dealer sponsor.

It also revealed that Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools Trust, was to advise his member schools to take advantage of a plan to make it easier to switch to foundation status, giving them more powers over admissions and staffing.

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