Tag Archives: General Certificate of Secondary Education

Our lowest attainers; how can we support them?

17 Apr

(1)       The Wood and the Trees

If the overarching objective of a business is to generate profit, that of a school is to ensure that young people are well educated and take their places confidently in adult society.   In 1997, the late Professor Ted Wragg of Exeter University proposed in A Cubic Curriculum a multi-dimension view of what it is to be “well educated” founded on four propositions.

(a)        First, education must incorporate a vision of the future.  If it doesn’t, we will be ill-serving the children in our care.   To cater for this, we have to take account of what will be affecting their lives, but not be wholly bound by it.   For instance, if they are living in the mountains, children need to learn the art of climbing and managing the heights. This does not mean that they may not at some time move down to the plains.

(b)        Second, they have to meet the increasing demands of citizens living in a shrinking world which continues to expand in population – currently standing at 7 billion people.  Employers require higher qualifications in a constantly changing environment.

(c)        Third, because of the increasing complexity in which we live, children need to be taught how to learn so that they can adapt to new developments.  How they learn is at least as important as what is learnt.

(d)        Finally, the curriculum has to be viewed as multi-faceted and not one-dimensional.   Yes, it has to incorporate subject matter but needs to go beyond that and include skills, attitudes, values, behaviour and beliefs.

Within their classrooms, good teachers teach the subjects – e.g. English and mathematics – in cross-curricular themes (such as developing young people’s thinking skills and imaginations, among other things) using a pedagogy that stimulates rather than stultifies the young – deploying a range of methods – such as telling, team-working, practising and imitating.

That’s the wood of which we may be losing sight because we have been obsessing with the trees – i.e. the stubborn fact that 25% of our youngsters leave schools without the basic proficiency – i.e. level 2 or GCSE at grade C – in English and mathematics.   In Sweden it is 14%, in Canada – 12% and in the USA – 11%.   Altogether, 4% of young people leave school without a single GCSE at even Grade G.

The challenge for us is to keep the overarching objectives for education (the wood) in mind while not neglecting the basics (i.e. the trees) that includes helping children develop a good command of literacy and numeracy.  If children are unable to read, write, add up and subtract, their lives are blighted. They will not be able to benefit from Ted Wragg’s vision and fail to live fulfilled and happy lives.

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Gove presses ahead with some aspects of GCSE reforms

17 Apr

The government intends to proceed with its timetable for new GCSEs and A levels to be introduced from 1 September 2015, a year after the new national curriculum is taught in maintained schools.  Ofqual, the examination regulator, described the timetable as “challenging”.  The NUT argued (rather dramatically) that it “could lead to a collapse of the system”.  Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), called for the introduction of the GCSEs to be delayed to September 2016, with the new A levels postponed for first teaching in 2018.

The government plans to introduce a new grading structure for the reformed GCSEs in English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, History, Geography, Computer Sciences and other Sciences from September 2015. News grades for the other subjects will follopw a year later.  Exam boards are hoping that the changes will include a new A** grade for the exceptionally bright or pupils having the opportunity of gaining an A* with merit.  Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, is clear that the bar for the C grade should be raised.

Gove also wants (despite opposition) to abandon the two-tier system of examinations in some subjects like Mathematics and to introduce only external assessments.  However, he has abandoned plans to franchise English, Mathematics and the Science to single exam boards, despite 82% of respondents (during the consultation) being in favour, stating that that was “a bridge too far”.   In the meantime, Gove has decided to scrap plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

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