. This post investigates the Government’s latest efforts to establish a national network of university-sponsored specialist mathematics free schools for 16-19 year-olds. It: Recapitulates the difficult history of this policy since it was first announced in 2011 Reviews in more detail developments in the nine months since my last post on this topic Analyses the … Continue reading Specialist maths schools, again
. This is a revised and updated version of How should England close its excellence gaps? (January 2018) . . This is a significant turning point in the evolution of national education policy. Former Secretary of State Greening published her social mobility plan Unlocking Talent: Fulfilling Potential (December 2017), immediately following the wholesale resignation of … Continue reading England’s excellence gaps revisited
. First edition: January 2018 . This is an important turning point in the evolution of national education policy. Departing Secretary of State Greening has only just published her social mobility plan Unlocking Talent: Fulfilling Potential (December 2017) It was preceded by the wholesale resignation of the Social Mobility Commission’s Board, protesting at lack of political … Continue reading How should England close its excellence gaps?
. This short post reviews performance at the higher standard in the 2017 KS2 national curriculum assessments, comparing this year’s provisional outcomes with those from 2016. It uses underlying data from SFR43/2017: ‘National curriculum assessments: KS2 (provisional)’, first published on 31 August 2017 and the equivalent SFR39/2016 published last year. Reference is also made to … Continue reading Monitoring the KS2 higher standard
. This extended post investigates resurgent interest in specialist maths schools, as displayed by the Tories under Theresa May. It: Discusses developments during the first half of 2017, foregrounding the May Government’s draft industrial strategy, its spring budget and the Tories’ 2017 election manifesto. Reviews the difficult history of 16-19 specialist maths free schools, beginning … Continue reading The resurrection of specialist maths schools?
. Summary This post explores the emerging definition of learners from ‘ordinary working families’ and the evidence published to date about their educational performance and how well they are served in the education system. It examines how learners from ordinary working families (hereafter referred to as ‘OWF learners’) fit within the broader visions for social … Continue reading The ‘ordinary working families’ fallacy
. This extended post challenges the argument that all learners can be high attainers. It sets out the various strands of this argument, highlighting the weaker links and illustrating them with the assistance of two case studies, both branded school improvement strategies. It uses PISA 2015 data to demonstrate that none of the world's leading … Continue reading Know Your Limits!
There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
. This short post outlines problems with ‘most able education’ – and what needs to change to bring about national improvement. The broad premiss is that, following a period in which comparatively prescriptive, centralised, top-down programmes were de rigeur, the English education sector has become wedded to a market-driven philosophy and ‘school-led system-wide improvement’. But … Continue reading Eight types of ambiguity
. …Or ‘An exercise in policy design’. . This post considers proposals emerging for new selective schools that would select on the basis of ability or attainment and socio-economic disadvantage. It covers the following ground: The context provided by the selection green paper and the Opportunity Areas policy. Recent Advocacy for ‘pupil premium grammar schools’ … Continue reading Pupil premium grammar schools
. This post investigates the practice of introducing selective grammar streams into comprehensive schools. It: Reviews recent advocacy for this practice. Distinguishes grammar streams from other, related approaches to within-school selection. Urges revision of the official distinction between ability and aptitude, based on the erroneous position taken by the School Adjudicator. Places grammar streams in … Continue reading Investigating grammar streams
. This post compiles some of the most recent and telling statistics about the state of high attainment in England. It includes a brief summary of the policy position as it stands ahead of the government’s response to the selection green paper. Finally it outlines a ten point improvement plan which does not involve building … Continue reading Rounding-up: Killer stats and 10-point plan
This post was first published on my old Gifted Phoenix Blog back in November 2014.
Much of it is still relevant – parts are even somewhat prophetic.
I had been intending never to revisit the difficult topic of setting, secure in the knowledge that I could not improve on my earlier treatment of the pros and cons.
But recent developments have caused me to reconsider, led me to address the issue from a different perspective.
My previous post attempted an objective and balanced statement of the educational arguments for and against, drawing on the research evidence and taking account of all learners, regardless of their attainment.
This one explores how setting – just one option within the far wider range of so-called ‘ability grouping’ strategies –…
View original post 11,228 more words
. This post investigates what PISA 2015 results reveal about: Progress towards the government’s 2020 national performance targets; and Trends in the comparative performance of England’s high attainers. It complements a parallel post about the TIMSS 2015 results – Troubling TIMSS trends (December 2015). . About PISA The results of the 2015 Programme for International … Continue reading PISA 2015: England’s results investigated
. This post reassesses Progress against the government’s national performance targets and The comparative performance of England’s high attaining pupils following publication of the TIMSS 2015 international comparisons study. . About TIMSS The results of the 2015 Trends in Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) were published at the end of November 2016. TIMSS is a … Continue reading Troubling TIMSS trends
. This post features analysis of the 2016 primary transition matrices, but mostly raises awkward questions. . Context Publication of the 2016 primary performance tables is imminent, together with revised national figures for achievement of the KS2 higher standard and new breakdowns by pupil characteristics, including receipt of pupil premium. We also await the results … Continue reading The perennial problem of primary high attainers
. This post probes the ‘centres of excellence’ proposal in the selection green paper. ‘Schools that work for everyone’ (September 2016) includes within its chapter on selection three proposals for ‘existing selective schools to do more to support children at non-selective schools’ This context is critical for understanding much of the confusion over centres of … Continue reading Making sense of centres of excellence
. This post reports five-year trends in the admission of disadvantaged students to selective universities, as revealed by the government’s key stage 5 destinations data. This half decade coincided almost exactly with the lifetime of a government that was strongly committed to social mobility through higher education. What does the destinations data reveal about the … Continue reading Advancing by slow degrees
. This experimental post revisits the question whether all grammar schools are effective in closing attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers. Ministers have asserted as much in recent speeches, but they are relying on a single piece of research, now more than a decade old. The Education Policy Institute has countered with qualified … Continue reading Do grammar schools close attainment gaps?
. I included in my last post, on the selection green paper, a set of seven draft principles to inform national policy on educating high-attaining learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. I wanted to lay out a framework that would challenge the thinking of proponents and opponents of selective education alike, to show how it might be possible … Continue reading How best to educate ‘poor, bright kids’?
. This extended post is about the selection green paper and the prime ministerial speech preceding it. I come at this issue from a different position to most. It is of course essential to ensure that the government’s proposals do not unduly disadvantage the majority of learners. But it is equally important to consider their … Continue reading Be careful what you wish for
. This post is about the new ‘achieving at a higher standard’ headline measure that will now feature in the primary performance tables. Provisional statistics indicate that only 5% of the 2016 end of KS2 cohort achieved this standard. That is disappointing, even allowing for the substantial impact of curriculum reform and new assessment arrangements. … Continue reading Only 5% of primary pupils achieve at a higher standard
Reblogging this post published in November 2014 on my Gifted Phoenix Blog.
This post considers how England’s selective schools are addressing socio-economic disadvantage.
Another irrelevant Norwegian vista by Gifted Phoenix
It is intended as an evidence base against which to judge various political statements about the potential value of selective education as an engine of social mobility.
It does not deal with recent research reports about the historical record of grammar schools in this respect. These show that – contrary to received wisdom – selective education has had a very limited impact on social mobility.
Politicians of all parties would do well to acknowledge this, rather than attempting (as some do) to perpetuate the myth in defiance of the evidence.
This post concentrates instead on the current record of these schools, recent efforts to strengthen their capacity to support the Government’s gap closing strategy and prospects for the future.
It encourages advocates of increased selection to consider the wider question of how…
View original post 12,048 more words
. This post: Reviews progress to date on white paper policies to improve the education of higher attaining learners Considers some wider implications of the white paper’s commitment to equality of educational opportunity, regardless of background and prior attainment, and Proposes a dedicated national centre, based in a leading university, to specialise in the education … Continue reading Rescue Plan (or how to get from where we are to where we ought to be)
. This post discusses the gap between what the schools white paper said would be in the ITT core content framework and what was actually published. . Background In a previous post – Differentiation in the ITT core content framework (March 2016) – I described the origins of the framework and its intended focus on … Continue reading What’s amiss with the ITT core content framework?
. HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw devoted his monthly commentary for June 2016 to the education of our most able learners. He has consistently championed the education of the most able in non-selective secondary schools, having instigated two Ofsted survey reports on this topic, published in June 2013 and March 2015 respectively. This new commentary is … Continue reading Sir Michael on the most able
. Several of my recent educational posts have mentioned the new-found commitment to ‘educational excellence everywhere’. This was the title selected for the March 2016 white paper, but it is also the strategic goal at the heart of this government’s education policy. It should influence every part of the white paper, informing every educational decision … Continue reading Exposing the implications of ‘educational excellence everywhere’
. This post compares white paper plans to strengthen fair access with the proposals set out in the green paper. It assesses each element of these plans and whether they amount to a convincing national strategy. It also considers whether the white paper is likely to bring about a much-needed improvement in the recruitment of … Continue reading The HE white paper underwhelms on fair access
. Ofqual is attempting a double-U-turn on how to define grade 9 in the new GCSE scale. This will affect the highest attaining learners in all our schools, all staff who teach them and all those who rely on GCSE grades to select high-attaining students, including university admissions staff. It also has implications for the performance … Continue reading Ofqual’s W-turn on GCSE grade 9
. This post examines ministerial targets for improving England’s educational performance by 2020, as measured by international comparisons studies. It explores the evolution of these targets, how they might be interpreted and the prospects for achieving them given likely outcomes from the next round of reports, scheduled for publication in December 2016/2017. PISA 2015 results … Continue reading TIMSS PISA PIRLS: Morgan’s targets scrutinised
. In April 2016 the Fair Education Alliance released its second annual report card. This post reviews progress against the five declared impact goals, as well as the recommendations for securing stronger progress in future. . What is the Fair Education Alliance? The Fair Education Alliance was launched by Teach First in June 2014. It … Continue reading The Fair Education Alliance: A wasted opportunity?
. . This post reviews fair access developments subsequent to publication of the HE green paper and preceding publication of the impending white paper. It asks whether some of the recommendations proffered by the Scottish Commission on Widening Access (COWA) should also be adopted in England. . Developments … Continue reading A blueprint for fair access?
. This short post anticipates the coverage of top-end differentiation in the imminent framework of core content for initial teacher training (ITT). . Background The Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT) (January 2015) dates from the last months of the Coalition Government. The first recommendation is that DfE should commission a sector body to … Continue reading Differentiation in the ITT core content framework
. This brief post offers a preliminary assessment of provision for the most able in the 2016 schools white paper. . Background There was a little-noticed commitment in the Conservative Election Manifesto: ‘We will make sure that all students are pushed to achieve their potential and create more opportunities to stretch the most able.’ The statement … Continue reading Education Excellence Everywhere for the most able
. This post explores tensions between the ‘excellence for all’ objective now underpinning national education policy and the proposed design of the national funding formula for schools. It is framed as an exploratory discussion document. If a convincing counter-argument emerges I am ready to adjust my views. . Setting the scene ‘Doing Differentiation Differently?’ mentioned … Continue reading Will the national funding formula support ‘excellence for all’?
. . . . . . This post compares how we do differentiation with how it’s done elsewhere. It explores the tension within education policy between autonomy and pedagogical prescription through the ‘forensic analysis’ of recent ministerial speech content. It flags up the likelihood of further … Continue reading Doing differentiation differently?
. This post assesses the progress of English Russell Group universities in admitting students from areas with low levels of higher education participation. It reapplies a methodology used previously by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC) to measure the success of these 20 universities in recruiting young, full-time first … Continue reading The ‘Missing 520’
. This post: Reviews the most recent statistical evidence of attainment gaps between disadvantaged high attainers and their peers. Questions why pupil premium is having no impact on these excellence gaps and Proposes action to close the gaps by raising attainment, so improving the life chances of these learners. . Introduction I have … Continue reading Why isn’t pupil premium closing excellence gaps?
. This post is mainly about Policy Exchange’s plans for ‘super-selective schools’, as proposed on Total Politics and reprised in Schools Week . Digression It’s been a strange six months. Last July I officially retired the Gifted Phoenix Blog and the @GiftedPhoenix Twitter feed, leaving the former open access and converting the latter into a … Continue reading Policy Exchange to the Rescue?
. This post casts a critical eye over the proposals for widening participation and fair access in the Higher Education Green Paper. It succeeds an earlier post - ‘Can we expect a rocket boost for fair access?’ (October 2015) – that discussed what was known of the Government’s intentions prior to publication. . Publication BIS … Continue reading Access and participation in the HE Green Paper
. This post provides updated information about trends in Key Stage 2 Level 6 performance. . Background Two further datasets have been released since I published a summary of Provisional KS2 Level 6 results for 2015 (August 2015): 2015 static national transition matrices for KS1-2 reading, writing and maths were added to RAISEonline on 29 … Continue reading Closing the curtains on key stage 2 level 6 assessment
. I wanted to find out how many of our 163 grammar schools give priority to disadvantaged pupils in their admissions arrangements for academic year 2016/17, and by what means. This analysis was prompted by a comment made by Secretary of State Nicky Morgan during the Commons debate on her statement of 19 October 2015. The … Continue reading Which grammar schools want more pupil premium students?
. This is an exploratory discussion document. I wrote it to try to understand more clearly the current situation. I am open to persuasion and will take on board evidence-based amendments. . The transition from old to new The original policy design for levels-based assessment was simple and elegant. This helped ensure its longevity throughout … Continue reading Measuring primary attainment and progress (version 2: 11 November 2015)
. Having spent several years bewailing the limited availability of national data on excellence gaps, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that RAISEOnline has just published transition matrices showing the progress made by disadvantaged learners from KS2 to KS4. It is regrettable that this data has been released only at the point when an entirely … Continue reading New Transition Matrices Reveal Worrying Excellence Gaps
. Today (20 October 2015) saw the publication of the latest DfE destinations data. It was contained in SFR40/2015: Provisional destinations of key stage 4 and key stage 5 students in state-funded institutions, 2013/14. I will not repeat again the detailed description of this data or the provisos attached. The essential information is set out … Continue reading FSM admissions to Oxbridge STILL showing no improvement
. This week’s media debate about the value of grammar schools as instruments of social mobility has been profoundly depressing. For the record, all the research evidence shows that the historical impact of selective education on social mobility has been negligible. The proportion of disadvantaged learners currently admitted to grammar schools remains desperately low: As … Continue reading If not grammar schools, what?
. This post considers whether the forthcoming Higher Education Green Paper will propose radical reform to bring about fair access to universities. . The runes first written The Conservative Government aspires to widen participation and improve fair access. There was no explicit commitment in the Conservative election manifesto but, one week before the May 2015 … Continue reading Can we expect a rocket boost for fair access?
I am increasingly concerned about NCETM’s notion that 'stretch and challenge' should always involve studying the same material in greater depth. This is becoming increasingly pervasive and resulting in widespread confusion, amongst teachers as well as parents. For example see this Mumsnet thread and this sample of recent Tweets . https://twitter.com/Miss_RQT/status/646778458173902848 https://twitter.com/Miss_RQT/status/646779429138493440 https://twitter.com/Braunteaches/status/646922499691794432 https://twitter.com/leah_moo/status/646922805834051584 https://twitter.com/FJStarfish/status/646923902824919040 … Continue reading More About Mastery, Depth and High Attainers
Note: This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on 7 September 2015. It includes data published by Exeter Mathematics School in response to the original version, as well as answers to some follow-up questions I posed on Twitter. . My attention was drawn to a recent Spectator article by Alison … Continue reading Progress report on KCL and Exeter Maths Free Schools: Second Edition
My attention was drawn to a recent Spectator article by Alison Wolf ‘What I’ve learned helping to found a specialist free school’ https://twitter.com/SchoolDuggery/status/639726828500992000 https://twitter.com/SchoolDuggery/status/639726963448541184 Wolf led the project to establish the King’s College London Mathematics School and is now a governor of the academy trust that runs it. KCLMS is one of … Continue reading Progress report on KCL and Exeter Maths Free Schools
SFR30/2015 ‘National curriculum assessments at key stage 2 in England, 2015 (provisional)’ was published on 27 August 2015. This is the final year of operation for separate level 6 tests. From 2016 there will be single tests for all KS2 learners capable of taking them. Headline percentages were unchanged from 2014, with 9% of entries … Continue reading Provisional KS2 Level 6 Results for 2015