Archive | January, 2014

National Curriculum, Tests and Exams Set to Morph

2 Jan

In September 2013, Michael Gove published the new national curricular framework, following consultations.  Some aspects of this will come into force on 1 September 2014.  From 1 September 2015, the new national curriculum for English, mathematics and science will take effect for years 2 to 6.  English, mathematics and science for Key Stage 4 will be phased in from September 2015.  Background information on the review, including details of previous publication, can be found here.

The new mathematics GCSE (see here) will require a deeper and broader mathematics understanding.   It will provide students with coverage on ratio, proportion and rates of changes and there will be an expectation that students will provide clearer arguments for their answers.  All students who fail to reach a C grade will be required to continue studying mathematics post-16.

The English Language GCSE (see here) will, according to Gove, provide all students with a robust foundation of reading and good written English and with language and literary skills.   Altogether, 20% of the marks will be awarded for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Where students take English Literature, they will engage in “high-quality texts across a range of genres and periods” – including Shakespeare, the works of nineteenth century novelists and poets of the Romantic era.  The new English Literature GCSE will build on this foundation and encourage students to “read, write and think critically”.  Continue reading

Academies – Where and What Next?

2 Jan

I           The general picture

Schools continue to apply to become academies.  The Department for Education provides useful guidance on how this can be achieved.  However, the pace of conversion appears to be slackening.   In October 2013, 36 applications were in the pipeline.  Over that month, 22 were approved and 35 new academies opened.   In the country as a whole, there are now 2,481 sponsored and converter academies from a total of 3,254 applications received.   At the time of writing, 441 applications for academy status have been approved but the schools still need to convert.

The thrust for conversion continues to be dominated by the secondary schools, which, because of their larger sizes, have a greater capacity to manage their financial and business affairs than smaller primary schools.  However, fewer than one in eight schools in the country is now an academy. Continue reading

UK Students’ progress in the Programme for International Student Assessments [PISA] frozen

1 Jan

(1)     What is PISA?

In December 2013, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA’s) fifth survey based on a battery of tests carried out in 2012.   PISA assesses the competencies of a cross-section of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, science and problem-solving.  The focus this time was on mathematics.

PISA charts the extent to which 15-year-old students have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. The assessment in the four areas does not just ascertain whether students can reproduce what they have learned but also examines how well they can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply that knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both, in and outside school. This approach reflects the fact that modern societies reward individuals not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

Paper-based tests were used each lasting two hours. In a range of countries and economies, an additional 40 minutes were devoted to the computer-based assessment of mathematics, reading and problem solving.

Test items were a mixture of questions requiring students to construct their own responses and multiple-choice items. The items were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. Altogether, 390 minutes of test items were covered, with different students tackling variously combined problems.

Students answered a background questionnaire, which took 30 minutes to complete, that sought information about themselves, their homes and their schools and learning experiences. Continue reading