News at a glance

25th September 2015 at 01:00

E D Hirsch: teacher assessment is ‘pretty darn valid’

Influential US educationalist E D Hirsch has spoken out in favour of teacher assessment, arguing that it is “pretty darn valid” and could be used to encourage schools to teach a knowledge-based curriculum. Professor Hirsch, who has been described by schools minister Nick Gibb as an important influence on the government’s curriculum reforms, made the comments at an event hosted by Cambridge Assessment this week. “The real point of formative assessments based on a definite curriculum is, first of all, they’re hard to cheat because you can make them the night before,” he said. “And secondly, I’m told by testing experts that these ad hoc tests are pretty darn valid.” Research suggested that formative assessments were “about 80 per cent as good” as formal external tests, he added. Professor Hirsch’s comments may come as a surprise because he has inspired ministers who have overseen a move away from teacher assessment towards formal exams.

Take part in the world’s largest lesson

The world’s largest lesson will be held in classrooms across more than 100 countries next week, and will focus on the sustainable development goals being adopted by the UN today. The lesson, organised by film director Richard Curtis (pictured) and supported by TES, is an opportunity to explore issues such as human rights, poverty and climate change. The Global Goals for Sustainable Development will replace the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. The new targets include ensuring inclusive and high-quality pre-primary, primary and secondary education for all and boosting the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries. For resources and information, visit

Former head of Eton criticises ‘irrelevant’ GCSEs

The former head master of Eton College has warned that the government’s reforms are making GCSEs “less relevant”. Tony Little, who retired this summer, told TES that GCSEs should be overhauled to reduce the focus on written exams and increase reliance on teacher assessment of problem-solving and collaboration skills. He added that exams should not be “the only game in town” and raising the participation age to 18 offered an opportunity for a “more innovative view of assessment” at 16. His suggestions are in stark contrast to the approach of the Department for Education, which is reducing the use of non-exam assessment in reformed GCSEs.

Lib Dems pledge end to term-time holiday ban

Parents would be allowed to take their children out of school during term time to cut the cost of family holidays under new Liberal Democrat policy agreed this week. Delegates at the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth claimed that the current ban on children missing lessons except in “exceptional circumstances” was “socially divisive”. They said poorer families had to either risk prosecution or miss out on holidays altogether because of higher prices during the summer break. Under the plan, headteachers would be allowed to grant up to 10 days of term-time absence in “special circumstances”.

Confidence is the secret of success, poll finds

Young people and parents believe confidence and communication skills are more important than intelligence when it comes to being successful, a survey reveals. The poll of more than 1,600 young people and 600 parents was carried out by YouGov for Sky Academy. Ninety-seven per cent of parents and 90 per cent of young people thought confidence was vital, with 98 per cent and 95 per cent respectively prizing communication skills and 82 per cent and 65 per cent citing appearance. But just 72 per cent of parents and 67 per cent of young people said it was important to be “naturally clever”.

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