A perfect storm is brewing…

A perfect storm is brewing within the Education community around English curriculum assessment, examination, marking and reporting. Michael Gove probably lost his job directly because of it, and his successor, Nicky Morgan is already in trouble over it with the Parliamentary Education Select Committee.

If you do not already know, everything in English national assessment terms has been changed. National curriculum levels have been scrapped because long-term research identified no lasting improvement in standards. Primary school training courses abound on assessing without levels, whilst Ofsted is now making it clear that marking and assessment methods are to be changed/reduced. At secondary level, GCSEs are in turmoil, with new grading systems and ‘fatter’ English and Maths subjects coming in next September, the rest to follow in 2016. Out with grades A* to G, in with grades 10 to 1, with 4 being the equivalent of a C. Most state secondary schools reacted by shortening their pre-GCSE programmes to Years 7 and 8 only, with GCSE courses starting in Year 9 and early takes in Year 10. But the DfE now insists GCSEs can only be taken at the end of Year 11! Many A Levels are also changing from September 2015 (Geography and others in 2016, Maths in 2017). When the subjects change, they are decoupled from the AS Levels taken at the end of Year 12, so that students are to be examined on 2 years’ work by terminal written exam. In the midst of this chaos, the government has now changed its league table structures for January 2015, and changed them again for January 2016. A considerable number of GCSE subjects are no longer to be counted, such as our own iGCSE English exam, even though they are and will remain accepted in England and all over the world. You simply could not make it up.

As Academic Principal of Claires Court, I am steering us clear of the turmoil. Having abandoned the National Curriculum 7 years ago, we are now adept at measuring attainment, progress and effort as was independently confirmed at inspection last March – http://www.clairescourt.com/files/CC_REPORT_with_cover_2014.pdf. Sections 3.27 to 3.31 describe how well we were doing then, and we have continued to develop our processes carefully. What we are not going to do is leave the English national examinations system (GCSE and A levels) not least because universities and employers in this country understand them as do all higher education institutions in Europe and America. Above all, as a nation we understand the framework, we have grown up with choice at 16 and the reduction of subjects studied in the Sixth Form. That flexibility means that our 18+ year olds are already becoming pretty specialist in what they know and can do really well. Accountants, scientists, medics, linguists, designers and actors all find their niche at this stage, and it also means that in-degree work placements and exchanges with other seats of learning and industry powerhouses can be arranged easily

If your child is in Early Years to Juniors at Claires Court, we have adjusted our reports significantly to reflect more accurately how your child is performing within his/her curriculum and against the Claires Court Essentials. At secondary level, our use of Attainment gradings for subject will continue, because they align closely with how we see performance mapping onto GCSE and A Level outcomes later on. We have reduced the content of the Year 7 to Year 9 December reports to ensure teachers and pupils spend more time on curriculum activity and skill development. For those pupils with learning differences and difficulties, their individual education plans will continue to be updated each term, to keep our focus on specific improvement clear. Early in the new year, our revised offer for GCSEs, old and new, will be published to assist Year 9 pupils and parents with option choices, and meetings to support parents in those choices are planned for early February. Even though our 2015 Sixth Form handbook is already published, we will update this shortly to reflect any changes made necessary by the roll-out of the new A Levels. As with the vast majority of our publications and policies, you will find them on our website either in the ‘Parent Area’ or under the ‘Academic’ tab.

We’ll continue to keep watch as those that steward our national qualifications bicker and argue and fail to act in a timely manner. We are supposed to be teaching a totally new harder Chemistry A level  syllabus  next Autumn, but that has still to be released because QCA want to toughen up the Maths component of it substantially.  AS with the new Maths A level (delayed until 2017 now), you can’t just toughen up requirements at A level without  permitting the time for toughening up below in Years9, 10 and 11. And therein lies the rub; just because central government has decided it wants our 16 year olds to compete more  strongly  against those in Shanghai, doesn’t mean to say that degree of progress is possible. A generation ago, just 8% of children went to University, now it is closer to 50%. That’s a better measure of real progress, with the vast majority of new well paid jobs emerging at the graduate level.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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