THE SCHOOLS NETWORK-FOCUSES ITS ATTENTION ON GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
By attacking Grammars isnt the network deflecting attention from the performance of their schools?
The Schools Network wants grammar school pupils to have to achieve five A* or A grades at GCSE to be considered as having achieved a satisfactory level of education. All other state schools would continue to be judged on students passing five GCSEs at A*-C grades. The Schools Network , formerly The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust , helped roll out the Academy and Specialist schools programmes under the last Labour government. Academies, of course, are central to this governments education reforms, although Labour claim that the new Academies are not the same as their Academies ,which were almost exclusively located in deprived areas. Just about any school ,even outstanding ones, can now convert to Academy status .
Specialist schools were criticised by some, including Professor Alan Smithers, for not being Specialist in any meaningful sense. Although claiming to be ‘ Specialist’ if you looked a bit closer at, for example, the number of specialist teachers they employed or, crucially the number of pupils taking hard (as opposed to soft)qualifications in their specialism then you might be dissappointed to find, though perhaps not surprised, that they were not much different from their neighbouring school, which claimed no specialism.(and therefore had access to fewer funds)
Professor David Jesson, an associate of the Schools Network, had created a means for measuring value added for SSAT supported schools, taking into account contextual data. Some critics suggested that this was conceived because their schools were not performing well enough under the standard government performance benchmark of five good GCSEs, including maths and English. Perish the thought. Mind you, if a pupil leaving school at 16 were to go to a job interview and argue the case that he hadnt got five good GCSEs but that his school had added great value, one might have grounds for wondering whether this was an approach that maximised the chances of a positive outcome.
Jesson is the author of a new report for The Schools Network which suggests that because grammar schools produce such excellent results, their performance should be judged differently. Indeed the clear implication was that many Grammar schools ,which are selective, are coasting.(so are quite a few comprehensive schools in leafy suburbs-which the SSAT was given funds by the last government to address- err..whatever happened to that programme?)
Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: “It would be grossly unfair and nonsensical to suggest comparing schools using different criteria according to their type. To do this would be totally misleading and grammar school pupils usually take ‘harder’ GCSEs, such as chemistry, physics, foreign languages, geography or history.” He continued “Pupils in comprehensive schools often take English and maths along with ‘softer’ subjects such as media studies, psychology or information technology which may count for up to four GCSEs.”
There is certainly evidence that quite a few state schools including academies have ‘gamed’ ie entered pupils for soft options ’ to secure good league table positions, something that the introduction of the Ebacc is designed to address.
Jessons suggestion does seem slightly self-serving. If Jesson’s measurement were applied to some of the schools in the Schools Network then I think we know the level of carnage that would result, and some might then begin to ask some questions about the performance of the Schools Network itself. Food for thought.
The Network has just this week been forced into administration, as public sector cuts ensured government business and its subsidies were slashed. There has been a management buyout which ensures that the ‘SSAT’ continues to trade. Other non-subsidised education providers have long complained that the SSAT/Schools Network only survived because they were heavily subsidised and guranteed business from the government, with quite a lot of this business not put out to open tender.Some of these criticisms now seem vindicated.
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