The Pupil Premium
Government and Ofsted know that how the Pupil Premium is spent by schools really does matter
Total pupil premium funding will rise from £1.25 billion in 2012-13 to £1.875 billion in 2013-14. This will enable the level of funding for the deprivation and looked after child premium to increase to £900 per pupil and the service child premium to increase to £300 per pupil.
Ministers see the Pupil Premium as the means to improve the performance of the most disadvantaged pupils, to address the long tale of underachievement and to close the achievement gap. The achievement gap is the difference in GCSE achievement between the average for pupils who are eligible for free school meals and the average for those who are not.
Research from the Sutton Trust suggests that given that Pupil Premium funding is not ring-fenced (and in a challenging budgetary climate for schools), in many schools the money is being used to fill budget deficits in other areas rather than being spent directly on the children that generated the funding in the first place. Self -evidently this is worrying. An Ofsted report in 2012 also found that only 10% of school leaders said that the Premium had changed the way they worked. And only half of schools said that it was having any positive effect on pupil achievement. Indeed, many schools were not even disaggregating the Pupil Premium from their main budget and were using it to enhance existing provision, rather than doing anything new with this extra funding. Ministers have been loth to intervene because they champion school autonomy.
Schools do now have to publish online information about the amount of pupil premium money the school receives and how it is being spent, as well as its impact. David Laws ,the schools minister, in a speech this month ,also made in very clear that the government will keep an eagle eye on how individual schools, and ,indeed ,chains of schools, are using the pupil premium to help improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils and to narrow the achievement gap. Most recently Laws said (at the ASCL conference) that schools must focus “relentlessly” on closing the achievement gap. Indeed he ratcheted up the pressure by announcing that schools in England will no longer be rated as “outstanding” by inspectors if they fail to close the attainment gap between poor and affluent children. And Schools must use interventions that are known to work.
This is a sensitive area. When Michael Gove was in opposition he relentlessly attacked the then Labour government for failing to improve the lot of pupils on Free School Meals pointing out that , if anything, their performance, despite significant levels of new investment, had declined and the attainment gap had increased.
Sir Michael Wilshaw is at one with the government in paying greater attention to the premiums use. Inspector’s judgments on schools’ leadership will consider the use of both the premium and other resources to overcome barriers to achievement for their pupils. In his annual report published in November, Sir Michael committed Ofsted to paying particular attention to attainment gaps affecting disadvantaged pupils in schools where they form a minority of less than 20% of all pupils
But not everyone believes that the funds available under the Pupil Premium are sufficient for their purpose. Some critics suggest that the sums allocated for the Premium do not reflect the estimated costs necessary to equalise disadvantaged pupils’ educational needs, with those of their peers (Sibieta, IFS 2009). The OECD (2010) observes that the premium is ‘relatively low in an international perspective and it is not clear that it will cover the extra costs of admitting disadvantaged students. As the OECD notes, this risk of insufficient funding is exacerbated by the counter-incentive of high stakes accountability measures in the UK context.
What does that mean?
In short, League tables and other performance indicators, along with the recently announced rising floor targets, (see David Laws speech) mean that there are very strong potential consequences for schools whose exam achievement dips. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and other vulnerable groups may then be viewed by schools not as a source of much needed extra funding but ,instead ,as a risk. Hence disincentives (driven by accountability measures) may in practice outweigh the pupil premium incentive in admitting such pupils. Indeed, an OECD working paper on reforming education in England (Braconier, 2012,) warns that if the “perceived deprivation funding is lower that schools’ perceived costs, they may engage in ‘cream skimming’, trying to dissuade disadvantaged students and recruit more able students.” This is why some are warning that schools admissions policies, and in particular academies admissions (given their autonomy), should be more carefully monitored. The Government is seeking to improve transparency by publishing data on the progress of individual schools in closing gaps in attainment for FSM pupils; a move welcomed, incidentally, by Braconier (2012).
We know that, historically, there have been some perverse incentives within the accountability framework, particularly league tables. So the government’s efforts to reframe school league tables to mitigate perverse incentives, evident in the current system, is welcomed by many (Laws recent speech was well received). But it remains to be seen what effect this may have on narrowing the achievement gap.
One thing is absolutely clear, though- schools will be held to account for how they use the Pupil Premium and their grade from Ofsted will depend on how much they have managed to close the achievement gap. Empirical evidence about what works is available, and should be used.And there are a number of interventions from which to choose.Rumour has it that technology companies are making big pitches to schools seeking to persuade them that they have what it takes to make a real difference to outcomes . But experts urge caution. Evidence is mixed. Remember use of technology should be driven by learning and teaching goals rather than a specific technology: technology is not an end in itself. And don’t take, at face value, what the salesmen tell you. See past the bells and whistles of a new piece of tech hardware or software and work out exactly what it does to help disadvantaged pupils. And ,crucially, seek independent, ’disinterested’ sources of advice and evidence.
‘Caveat emptor’ ,as Michael Gove might say.
CFBT EDUCATION TRUST RESEARCH ON LANGUAGES IN SCHOOLS
More take-up of languages in schools since the Ebacc introduced
Language teaching a reality in high proportion of Primary schools
But wide spectrum of practice and inconsistency and discontinuity between Primary and Secondary schools
CfBT Education Trust, on 20 March, published the results of national surveys of primary and secondary schools, revealing the multiple challenges for languages within the new English National Curriculum.
The ‘Language Trends’ report shows that while foreign language teaching is already a reality in most primary schools, there is a very wide spectrum of practice and a lack of consistency in both approach and outcomes. Teachers need further training and support as the subject becomes statutory in September 2014, particularly in those schools where provision is currently least developed. However, on a positive note, schools in England have been encouraging more teenagers to take up languages since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate league table measure, the report suggests.
The report reveals a disconnect between the primary and secondary systems which means that the vast majority of pupils do not experience continuity and progression as they move from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3. Secondary schools cannot cope with the diversity of pupils’ language learning experiences in Key Stage 2, and it is not on their agendas to do so.
Teachers of languages in both independent and state schools would welcome reforms to GCSE and A level examinations which would encourage steady progression in the acquisition of language skills and improve pupil motivation. They would like to see wider recognition of the value of language learning as an essential tool for success in the modern workplace. On the evidence here, teachers would welcome a return to externally assessed final exams at both GCSE and A level. They would like to see changes which measure and encourage steady progression in the development of linguistic skills and their practical use in a range of contexts.
At 50% of state-funded secondaries, at least half of older pupils are now taking a foreign language GCSE. In 2010, this was the case in 38% of schools. However , it might be the case that anti-European sentiment may be turning teenagers off modern foreign languages.
There is some evidence an “erroneous” view that languages such as French and German are no longer useful when, in fact, they are still needed in the workplace, according to the language specialist Teresa Tinsley, who co-authored the report.
Tinsley acknowledged that current “anti-European discourse” is not helping the issue, She said that entries for A-level French and German fell by more than half between 1996 and 2012. There has also been a decline in students taking these subjects at GCSE. “Entries for GCSE in Spanish and other foreign languages continue to rise, but not in sufficient number to compensate for the decline in French and German.” Tinsley added that the falls in French may be more obvious because it is a widely studied language. “It is possible that because French is the most commonly taken language, when you get a drop-off it affects these languages in the frontline more.” Tinsley said she understood the popularity of Spanish. “I think there’s a perception that French and German are not useful in the global economy, which is a totally erroneous perception. “All the information shows that the languages that are most needed in the workplace are French and German and I think there is an erroneous perception that because Spanish is a global language, it is therefore going to be more useful – but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the structure of our economy and the trading links that we have. “I think that the rhetoric and the discourse around Europe and the anti-European discourse is not helpful for languages.”
The report’s co-author, Kathryn Board, added: “I would say, from a perception point of view, that when you look at society in general in this country and you see that pupils are not motivated to learn languages, parents are not motivating their children to learn languages and generally, we’ve got a society that doesn’t recognise the value of languages, when you get a rhetoric in the media on a daily basis that feels anti-European, anti-eurozone, one might assume, over time, that it underlines an already unfavourable feeling about languages.”
Tony McAleavy, Director of Education at CfBT, said:
“A recent international study showed that English pupils were significantly behind their international peers in terms of foreign language learning. If we are to turn this situation around, we must capture the opportunity provided by the introduction of foreign languages into the primary curriculum, linked to the aspiration for improved standards in the reformed GCSE and A levels’.”
The report concluded that ‘This survey provides the first nationwide evidence on the situation of languages in primary schools since 2008 and shows that, despite anecdotal reports of a reduction in provision during the period of this government’s national curriculum review, language teaching is now a reality in a very high proportion of primary schools. Although 97% of respondents reported that they are teaching a language, this may be an overestimation of the national picture, in that primary schools not teaching a language may have been less inclined to reply. Nonetheless, the survey achieved a high volume of responses and clearly shows that languages are firmly on the agenda in primary schools. However, the report provides evidence of a very wide spectrum of practice and a lack of consistency between schools both in their approach to language teaching and in the outcomes they achieve. There is a strongly expressed need – as well as evidence of an implicit need – for further training and support, particularly for those schools without expertise or commitment to the notion of language teaching in primary schools’.
The report states ‘Following the introduction of the EBacc ,as a performance measure, an increasing number of schools report that the number of students taking languages at KS4 has risen. Among the changes made, many schools have made languages compulsory or highly recommended for some pupils. The figures suggest that most able pupils are now engaging – willingly or not – in language learning. However, there is a dearth of provision for less ‘academic’ pupils and no incentive for schools to provide this.’
Only 11% of state secondary schools have arrangements which allow all pupils to continue with the same language learnt in primary school. Secondary schools cannot cope with the diversity of pupils’ language learning experiences in KS2, and it is not on their agendas to do so. A perception of excessive disparity and diversity in language provision in primary schools – and, indeed, the reality in many cases – is leading secondary schools to dismiss the value of what has been learnt and to ‘start at the beginning again’.
Language learning in primary and secondary schools in England-Findings from the 2012 Language Trends survey – Teresa Tinley and Kathryn Board-CFBT Education Trust-March 2013
LEAGUE TABLES AND ‘FACILITATING’ A LEVELS
Does it make sense?
The Government says that it wants A Level students to follow a broad academic programme, post 16, that prepares them for degree-level study and keeps open as many university course options as possible. It wants universities to help design A levels too. And for them to concentrate first on the so called ’ facilitating subjects’. The facilitating subjects are those that are most often required by universities. The list is made up of Maths and further maths; Physics; Biology; Chemistry; History; Geography; Modern and classical languages; English Literature. (see Russell Group FAQs)
The government has introduced a new measure into the school league tables for the first time this year. It’s a measure of the percentage of 18 year olds who achieved overall grades AAB or better in these facilitating subjects. These institutions would usually expect at least two of those subjects to have been taken for most of their degree courses. The Government, however, is judging schools by whether students studied these subjects in all three of their A-levels. Christopher Jefferys in a blog for the Good Schools Guide, says there are grounds for asking- why? Of course these subjects are important, he accepts. By what logic does having taught more pupils for this narrow range of subjects indicate that one school is providing a better or more successful education than another? Given the proportion of senior politicians and cabinet members who studied PPE at Oxford, he wonders how many of them would have passed the three-A-levels-in-facilitating-subjects-at-grades-AAB. The Prime Minister for the record took A-levels in History of Art, History, and Economics (with Politics), so he scores one out of three. So, suggests Jefferys, this measure-three facilitating subjects- on the face of it looks questionable and arbitrary. He has a point.
Laura McInerney, a former teacher, now consultant, writing in the Guardian this week, would probably agree. She is at a loss to understand why these subjects are regarded as ’facilitating’, as leading universities do not actually require three of these subjects. The Russell Group only suggests taking at least two of these subjects. And then only if a student wants to keep their options open. McInerney finds little logic in the approach. She writes ‘A student can study geography at Oxbridge without having done geography A-level. To do music, they must have studied music at A-level. Hence, not having music actually closes that option, whereas not having geography does not. So the list fails immediately even by its own logic.’ Indeed.
The Head of Tiffin School wrote to the Director of the Russell Group, pointing out that only 44% of their students got AAB in facilitating subjects, but 89% got into Russell Group universities (Source LSN)
THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL
Successful and influenced by Hirsch
Hence Gove referencing Massachusetts
At his recent speech at the SMF, the Education Secretary ,Micheal Gove, praised the Massachusetts curriculum in which their “history curriculum requires students to be taught in rich factual detail about their heritage”. ED Hirsch the American academic who articulates the need for a core curriculum of knowledge and the importance of memorisation had a significant influence on Goves thinking behind the new curriculum. But Gove has been criticised for rushing through the proposals, of not properly consulting the experts or listening to them. Historians, for example, have written to the Observer this week complaining about the content of the new history curriculum and the need to identify consensus, through proper consultation.
Massachusetts prides itself on the amount of meaningful consultation it undertook before it settled on its curriculum frameworks:
The opening page to the MA Curriculum Frameworks website contains the following statement:
‘Since the enactment of the Education Reform Act of 1993, a great deal of work has gone into developing the Curriculum Frameworks. What has made the process so effective is the grassroots involvement of thousands of people statewide. The task could not have been accomplished without the commitment, energy, and dedication of teachers, administrators, associations, parents, business, students, higher education faculty, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff, the Board of Education, and the public.’
Of course there is a consultation now underway (see link below) but the charge is that Governments generally tend to have made up their mind before public consultations take place and that the subsequent process is little more than an exercise in window dressing and / or cherry picking . We shall see.(I would suggest that it is worth looking in detail at the proposals and contributing to the consultation because the Secretary of State and DFE will be less willing to ignore such contributions now than they were a week ago, before the U turn on the EBC )
But why is Gove referencing Massachussetts?
Because its educational achievement outcompetes every other US state .For instance, the state leads the USA in reading and mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It routinely excels even when you control for income and parental income level. On the 2005 NAEP tests, Massachusetts ranked first in the US in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math. It then repeated the feat in 2007. No state had ever scored first in both grades and both subjects in a single year—let alone for two consecutive test cycles. How has Massachusetts done it?
The short answer that educators in Massachusetts give is that it achieves so highly because 20 years ago they implemented Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum state-wide in 1993, a curriculum that now runs in over 1,000 US schools.
Its not ,of course, just about the curriculum. Leadership, high quality teaching, collaboration, dissemination of best practice and other elements are also essential for success, but Hirsch and his core knowledge win most of the plaudits
We have covered his thinking and influence before. Here is a quote from Hirsch to give a flavour:
‘Higher-order thinking is knowledge-based: The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject’. (1996)
But there is another significant claim made that is particularly interesting.
The claim is that Core Knowledge Schools have raised the bar for all and closed the gap between more and less disadvantaged students.
In an extensive study in 2000, for example, Core Knowledge students were found to have outperformed their peers in almost all categories (reading, vocabulary, history, geography and maths). During the late 1990s researchers in Maryland found that the degree to which Core Knowledge was implemented in schools was a significant predictor of student achievement gain. Another study concluded that the carefully sequenced Core Knowledge curriculum also has the potential to help disadvantaged students overcome their disadvantages and achieve academic proficiency.
Then there is the so-called Matthew effect – ‘to those who have, more shall be given, but from those who have not, even what they have shall be taken away’. This is about the effects of accumulative advantage referred to by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and in Daniel Rigney’s book ‘The Matthew Effect’.
Hirsch points out that ‘unless an early knowledge deficit is quickly overcome, the deficit grows ever larger’; for him, ‘the cumulative principle explains the phenomenon of the widening gap’ in achievement across and within countries. Therefore, Hirsch concluded, ‘we can greatly accelerate the achievements of all students if we adopt knowledge-oriented modes of schooling.’ (2006 xii)
Massachusetts uses Hirschs ideas and is successful. Hence, Goves enthusiasm for his ideas.
In summary, Hirsch’s ideas can be distilled as follows: at the core of academic achievement lies a body of essential knowledge and the more you accumulate this knowledge the more you will accelerate your academic achievement .
But ,as Gove is finding out,what constitutes core knowledge is very much open to debate.
The National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, which is an exam administered to a sample of fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students every two years in reading and math. All states and DC have been included since 2003.The NAEP is called “the nation’s report card,” and Massachusetts students have long been dominant.
Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”
GOVE, HIRSCH AND THE CURRICULUM
New curriculum will focus on core knowledge-influenced by Hirsch
E.D. Hirsch is an American professor whose radical ideas about what should be taught in schools are set to have a profound effect on English schools. A favoured intellectual of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, Hirsch advocates a curriculum strongly grounded in facts and knowledge. He also believes that there are certain specific ideas, works of literature and scientific concepts which everyone should know so that they can be active participants in society. This is aimed at counteracting what Gove describes as a prevailing left-wing or ‘progressive’ ideology among teachers.
In a speech to the Social Market Foundation, on 5 February, Gove promised to rid the curriculum of “vapid happy talk” and ensure pupils had a structured “stock of knowledge”.
Hirsch promoted the idea of the importance of cultural literacy—the necessary information that students must have to understand what they read. After arguing, in Cultural Literacy (1988), that young people are not becoming good readers because they lack cultural literacy, Hirsch set out to remedy the problem by “spelling out, grade by grade, in detail, what students must know in a variety of fields if they are to be competent and understanding readers.” In addition to this Core Knowledge curriculum, Hirsch launched a system of Core Knowledge schools to teach it along with a Core Knowledge Foundation to support them. Indeed his Core Knowledge curriculum, created in 1986, is now used in more than 1,000 schools and preschools in 47 States. So teaching a core knowledge is essential. And this must detail specific information for students to learn. It is a “lasting body of knowledge, which includes such topics as the basic principles of constitutional government, mathematics and language skills, important events in world history, and acknowledged masterpieces of art, music and literature” Hirsch asserts that “the principal aim of schooling is to promote literacy as an enabling competence”. Crucially general knowledge should be a goal of education because it “makes people competent regardless of race, class or ethnicity while also making people more competent in the tasks of life.” This general knowledge includes knowing a range of objective facts. Hirsch says that highly skilled intellectual competence only comes after one knows a lot of facts.
Knowledge, according to Hirsch, is “intellectual capital” – that is “the knowledge and skill a person possesses at a given moment.” He also says that the more knowledge and skill a person has, the more they can acquire. “Learning builds on learning” he argues. So, the more a person knows, believes Hirsch, the more a person can learn in a multiplier effect. He calls existing knowledge “mental Velcro”, which allows for additional knowledge to become attached to it , and so a memory replete with facts learns better than one without.
In his speech Gove criticised the widespread opposition to the English Baccalaureate, the performance measure introduced in 2010 which gauges secondary schools by the proportion of pupils who get a C or above in six GCSEs – English, maths, two of the sciences, history or geography and a language.
“The reaction from the Labour party, the teaching unions, teacher training institutions and all too many figures ostensibly dedicated to cultural excellence was visceral horror,” Gove said.
In the most scathing and personal section of the speech Gove argued that his Labour shadow, Stephen Twigg, along with the party’s leader, Ed Miliband, and Ed Balls, the children’s minister turned shadow chancellor, wanted to deny disadvantaged pupils the benefits of a liberal education of the sort they enjoyed in studying for degrees in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.
Dipping into popular TV culture by referencing the TV costume drama Downton Abbey, Gove said: “The current leadership of the Labour party react to the idea that working-class students might study the subjects they studied with the same horror that the Earl of Grantham showed when a chauffeur wanted to marry his daughter.
“Labour, under their current leadership, want to be the Downton Abbey party when it comes to educational opportunity. They think working-class children should stick to the station in life they were born into – they should be happy to be recognised for being good with their hands and not presume to get above themselves.”
London’s Pimlico Academy is one pioneering school that has introduced a ”Hirsch-style” curriculum in its new primary school. Two young women are leading this experiment: Anneliese Briggs and Daisy Christodoulou. Pimlico Academy of course is supported by venture capitalist Lord Nash, recently appointed an education minister to replace Lord Hill.
Ed Hirsch’s thinking, which Gove so admires (as does Nick Gibb the former schools Minister) is seen as antithetical to the progressive, child centred approach to education as articulated by thinkers such as John Dewey (active in early twentieth century). To be fair , concerning Dewey, his views are often caricatured by critics and taken out of context partly, one suspects, because they are not so easily understood and he is a less easily accessible writer than Hirsch. And, of course, he isn’t around to clarify his ideas for us. Dewey wanted a better balance between delivering knowledge and memorisation while fully taking into account the interests and experiences of the student. Dewey became one of the most famous proponents of hands-on learning or ‘experiential’ education. Hirsch has had more influence on US schools. And, significantly, the best performing US state-Massachusetts-is heavily influenced by Hirsch, hence it is frequently referenced by Gove. Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”
School league tables: Revealing or misleading?
New research claims that league tables mislead because they report past performance rather than indicating how schools might perform in the future
At the centre of the accountability framework for schools sit league tables. These tables have been changed recently to try to ensure that they are more comprehensible, relevant, accurate and transparent, so that parents can understand them better in order to support them in making informed choices. Indeed, each year parents are encouraged to use school league tables to help choose a secondary school for their children. Headteachers and governors, because of the league tables perceived importance, are highly sensitive to what the government measures in its school performance tables. But George Leckie and Harvey Goldstein argue that such comparisons are crude and ultimately misleading. The most high profile secondary school league tables are those publishing the percentage of children getting five A* to C grades at GCSE. However, Leckie and Goldstein claim ‘ this performance measure is an unfair way to compare schools as it says more about differences in schools’ intakes than it does about differences in their quality. Such league tables are also an unreliable way to compare schools as, with only around 200 students per school sitting GCSE exams each year, it is a ‘noisy’ measure of how well schools are truly performing.’ The so-called ‘contextual value-added’ (CVA) measure, published by the Government until it was abandoned in 2011*, was considered to be a better measure for comparing schools as it adjusted for differences in schools’ intakes and was published with error bars to communicate the statistical uncertainty in schools’ performances.
The authors write ‘Our research has focused on a fundamental problem in using secondary school league tables, value-added or otherwise, for school choice: school league tables report the past performance of schools, based on children who have just taken their GCSE exams, whereas what parents want to know is how schools will perform in the future when their own children take the exams. Consider parents who chose a secondary school for their child in autumn 2012. Their child will enter school in autumn 2013 and will take their GCSE exams in 2018. Thus, the information parents need when choosing is how schools are predicted to perform in 2018. However, the most recent information available to them is the school league table for how schools performed in 2011.’
They point out ‘There is therefore a seven-year gap between the available information and what parents want to know. Clearly, the more schools’ performances change over a seven-year period, the less reliable league tables will be as a guide to schools’ future performances.’
They continue ‘To examine how serious a problem this issue is, we first examined the official CVA school league table data. We found that many schools which were performing in the top quarter of schools seven years ago perform in the bottom half today. We then predicted schools’ current performances based only on data from seven years previously. We found that these predictions were so imprecise that almost no schools could be distinguished reliably from one another.
This means that, for choosing a school, the league tables carry very little useful information and, by not communicating this fundamental problem to parents, they are very likely to mislead.
More should be done, they conclude, by the Government and the media to communicate this important limitation to parents.
George Leckie is a Lecturer in Social Statistics at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Harvey Goldstein is a Professor in Social Statistics at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.
*UPDATE=Thursday 24 January: This article was updated to clarify that from 2011 CVA was no longer used, though was in place when this research was originally carried out.
Department for Education (2012). Performance tables. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
Department for Education (2010). ‘Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4 (KS2-KS4) Contextual Value Added Measure (CVA) Including English and Maths’ in 2005 Key Stage 4 Contextual Value Added (CVA) Pilot. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
Leckie, G. and Goldstein, H. (2009a). School league tables: Are they any good for choosing schools? Research in Public Policy, Bulletin of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, 8, 6-9.
Leckie, G. and Goldstein, H. (2009b) The limitations of using school league tables to inform school choice. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, 172, 835-851.
Leckie, G. and Goldstein, H. (2011). Understanding uncertainty in school league tables. Fiscal Studies, 32, 207-224.
Goldstein, H. and Leckie, G. (2008). School league tables: what can they really tell us? Significance, 5, 67-69.
Note. CVA measures are attractive to many but academics are still debating how best to measure value added as there are a number of different approaches to its measurement. No single model is universally accepted.
GRIT AND ITS MEASUREMENT
There are challenges in measuring non-cognitive factors but they are not insurmountable
Non-cognitive factors is a catch-all term for factors such as motivation, grit, self-regulation, social skills, emotional intelligence – in short, mental constructs that we think contribute to student success, and which are attractive to employers. Yes you need literacy, numeracy ICT, and other cognitive skills too, which are tested. But a rounded education amounts to much more than a grasp of cognitive skills, a fact that escapes rather too many politicians, if not employers and admissions tutors.
Looking at, and acknowledging the importance of, non-cognitive factors in education and in everyday school life is the new zeitgeist .There is plenty of data to show that researchers are on to something quite important here. But Professor Dan Willingham poses on his blog a pretty fundamental question about non-cognitive factors – is there anything here that educators are likely to be able to use in the next few years? Or are we going to be defeated by the measurement problem ? The short answer to this is that there are challenges and problems but they are probably not insurmountable. According to Willingham ‘the measurement problem in non-cognitive factors shouldn’t be overstated’.
There is for example a shared core construct on self-regulated learning* (Sitzman & Ely, 2011), Their review examines the current state of research on ‘self-regulated learning’ and gaps in the field’s understanding of how adults regulate their learning of work-related knowledge and skills. Goal level, persistence, effort, and self-efficacy were the self-regulation constructs with the strongest effects on learning. Together these constructs accounted for 17% of the variance in learning, after controlling for cognitive ability and pretraining knowledge. And Angela Duckworth (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009) has made headway in developing a standard measure of grit. The Grit Scale measures trait-level perseverance and passion for long-term goals. (so ‘grit’ is distinguished from self-control by its emphasis on the pursuit of a long-term goal). Duckworth, as a doctoral student, sought some way to make sense of the qualities that go beyond IQ: “People who accomplished great things, she noticed, often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.” She named this quality “grit” and then came up with this quite straightforward Grit Scale for measuring it. It’s deceptively simple, only takes a few minutes to fill out, (see links below) and relies on the usually notoriously unreliable method of self-reporting. But when she tested it, she found that it was powerfully predictive of success. She tested it, for example, on college students and found that those who scored high on the Grit Scale had higher Grade Point Averages ,even if they initially had lower college tests. She tested it on West Point cadets too, and it turned out to be the most accurate predictor of who finished the gruelling course.
Self-regulated learning is the process of taking control of and evaluating one’s own learning and behaviour. It can be used to describe learning that is guided by metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), strategic action (planning, monitoring, and evaluating personal progress against a standard), and crucially motivation to learn.
Dan Willingham’s Science and education blog 22 Jan 2013
Duckworth, A.L, & Quinn, P.D. (2009). Development and validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit-S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166-174.http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Duckworth%20and%20Quinn.pdf
Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1087-1101.http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf
Sitzmann, T, & Ely, K. (2011). A meta-analysis of self-regulated learning in work-related training and educational attainment: What we know and where we need to go. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 421-442.
Duckworths Short Grit Scale
WHAT ARE ACADEMIES OBLIGED TO TEACH?
Academies and Free schools do not have to follow the national curriculum. But… and its quite a big but..
‘Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum’, and there are a number of statutory and other requirements.
Key statutory requirements
‘Academies are required to have a broad and balanced curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’
For pupils below key stage 1 (i.e. reception and nursery), academies are required to follow the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Summary of requirements under the funding agreement
While academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum they are required to ensure their curriculum:
includes English, maths and science;
includes Religious Education, although the nature of this will depend on whether the school has a faith designation;
secures access to independent, impartial careers advice for pupils in years 9-11; and
includes sex and relationship education (SRE).
Academies are required to take part in the following assessments:
Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (in reception);
Teacher assessments at Key Stage 1;
National tests at Key Stage 2;
Teacher assessments at Key Stage 3; and
All relevant monitoring arrangements as prescribed by the Secretary of State.
Are the curriculum requirements the same for all academies?
No. ‘Prior to September 2010, some funding agreements required academies to follow the National Curriculum Programmes of Study in English, maths and science (and in some cases ICT). We (DFE) will be writing to those academies to say that we will not enforce those contractual provisions.’
(I assume that the DFE has already informed the relevant academies about this)
Source Academy Curriculum Fact Sheet, DFE, up dated December 2012
Remember, Academies and Free schools are ‘autonomous’ in the sense that they have certain freedoms, over the curriculum, pay, etc and are ‘freed’ from local authority bureaucracy but each school, nonetheless, is subject to a Funding Agreement with the DFE . The funding agreements are essentially contracts between the Secretary of State and the organisation which establishes and runs the school ( ie ‘the academy trust’) . This varies between schools. So Academies are still subject to central controls, and, of course, Ofsted inspections. Although Lord Adonis wanted the DNA of independent schools transferred to academies it would be something of a challenge to argue that academies are as autonomous or ‘free’ as independent schools. Could, for example, the Secretary of State object to the appointment of a governor in an independent school? I think not.
Academies are charities run by an academy trust. But they are what is termed ’ exempt ‘charities. So , rather than being regulated by the independent Charities Commission they are regulated by the Secretary of State . Indeed, the Secretary of State prescribes membership of the trustee body in some detail. So’“exempt” charities in this case at least may be operating in an even more regulated and much more highly politicised environment than is the case for conventional charities
Memorisation is important in education and learning
In a recent speech, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, several times quoted one of his educational gurus, the American cognitive psychologist Professor Daniel Willingham, who specialises in learning and memory.
Willingham says: “Research from cognitive science has shown that the sort of skills teachers want for students — such as the ability to analyse and think critically — require extensive factual knowledge.” Memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding.” Gove claimed. The Guardian suggested that Gove, in his speech, was championing by rote learning (slightly unfair, see note)
In short, there can be no factual knowledge without deliberate memorising as well as other kinds of more passive memory. So memorising, according to Willingham and Gove, is a precondition of understanding. In fact Willingham, as he said on his blog, would have preferred Gove in his speech to have substituted “knowledge,” to “memorisation” ‘ because the latter makes it sound as though one must sit down and wilfully commit information to memory. This is a poor way to learn new information–it’s much more desirable that the to-be-learned material is embedded in some interesting activity, so that the student will be likely to remember it as a matter of course.’
Memorisation, of course, does not necessarily mean learning by ‘rote’. Rote learning is just one way in which we are able to commit things to memory. Information can be memorised in many different ways and using specific techniques ie mnemonics, visualisation and so on .The argument goes that the more you repeat the thing you want to learn, the stronger the connection between neurons and the brain become. Marc Smith, a teacher and chartered psychologist, in the Guardian last week, wrote ‘The human brain is pretty good at learning. Each time it learns something new (anything from the capital of France to riding a bike) a connection is formed between neurons in the brain, the more the thing to be learned is repeated, the stronger the connections become.’
He continued ‘Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving. Constant recitation of times tables might not help children understand mathematical concepts but it may allow them to draw on what they have memorised in order succeed in more complex mental arithmetic. Memorisation, therefore, produces a more efficient memory, taking it beyond its limitations of capacity and duration’
He stressed, though, that what he was not saying was that all learning should be based on memorisation .Any good teacher understands that a variety of teaching methods will get the best from our students and that specific students might require specialist interventions. Nevertheless, he says crucially ‘ there exists a considerable body of evidence to suggest that a memory rife with facts learns better than one without.’
Some of the most successful education systems in the world use memorisation (or indeed, by rote learning,)from Foundation level onwards. So dont knock it .
Professor Willingham points out that Gove in his speech emphasized that exam preparation should not mean a dull drilling of facts, (ie rote learning) but rather should happen through “entertaining narratives in history, striking practical work in science and unveiling hidden patterns in maths.” Willingham writes ‘I think the word “memorisation” may be what led the Guardian to use a headline suggesting Gove was advocating rote learning.’
Minette Marrin, in the Sunday Times, last week, drew attention to the work of Alex Bellos. He discovered that all Japanese toddlers are taught to sing a kind of numbers nursery rhyme call kuku. It is, in fact, a song of times tables, and they sing it by rote in groups, long before they understand what it means. This way, it seems Japanese children internalise their tables perfectly, permanently and happily, unlike British children. Bellos tested Japanese office workers in a bar; all were number perfect, and one explained it was the memory of the kuku music that made it impossible for her to forget the tables.
TOUGH ON CHARACTER
‘How children Succeed’-its not just about cognitive skills
Character is what leads to lasting success
If you do well in exams and pass the tests you are set to succeed in life. Not necessarily. Until recently, most economists and psychologists believed that the most important factor in a child’s success was his or her IQ. This notion is behind the obsession with test scores. Tests, of course, are important, but there is much in a child’s education and learning that cannot be reliably tested. It is also the case that confidence in the testing regime, certainly in England, is at an all time low.And an individual’s non-cognitive abilities are now assuming much greater importance to employers who need them in the workplace
Education policymakers here and in the States have been driven by the need to promote more rigour and robustness in academic standards. Test-based accountability measures have been enacted with the intention of holding schools accountable for reaching these higher standards, measuring pupils cognitive skills. Its nearly all about content knowledge and testable academic skills. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most for students have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these non-cognitive skills. Psychologists call them personality traits. Neuroscientists sometimes use the term ‘ executive functions’. The rest of us often sum them up with the word ‘character’. Tough offers the revolutionary concept that character, unlike DNA, is not fixed or completely innate in a person. It is, in a word that recurs throughout How Children Succeed, malleable.
This is what Tough says’ … the conventional wisdom is that the big problem for low-income kids is that they don’t get enough cognitive stimulation early on. In fact, what seems to have more of an effect is the chaotic environments that many low-income kids grow up in and the often stressful relationships they have with the adults around them. That makes a huge difference in how children’s brains develop, and scientists are now able to trace a direct route from those early negative experiences to later problems in school, health, and behaviour. The problem is that science isn’t yet reflected in the way we run our schools and operate our social safety net. And that’s a big part of why so many low-income kids don’t do well in school. We now know better than ever what kind of help they need to succeed in school. But very few schools are equipped to deliver that help.’
Tough talked about character in a recent interview, citing the KIPP chain of not for profit charter schools and its dedicated founder, David Levin. KIPP schools produce report cards for academic performance but also character assessment. “Dave is doing new and important work,” Tough said, adding: ‘He has a new vision for character and it’s quite scientific in that he’s trying to figure out which character strengths make a difference in a kid’s success. And at the root of his research and thinking is the assertion that character is… a set of qualities that [enables] kids to change themselves and qualities that parents and teachers can instil.’ The schools Tough writes about in “How Children Succeed” that are collaborating on a character initiative are those KIPP charter schools in New York City, which serve a mostly low-income student population, and Riverdale Country School, a private school in the Bronx that serves a mostly high-income student population. Together, they have come up with a list of seven character strengths they are trying to encourage in their students. KIPP had discovered that their most successful students were not necessarily those that came top in tests but those, instead, that were the most resilient .
Tough points out that protective parents, with the best of motives, might well be harming the longer term prospects for their children: ‘By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.’
In the words of a recent academic study (see below) ‘… there is still much to be learned about how to leverage non-cognitive factors to transform educational practice from its current focus on content knowledge and testable academic skills to the broader development of adolescents as learners.’
The Consortium on Chicago Schools Research report titled “Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Non-cognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review.’ June 2012
- PAYING FOR RESULTS-CAN IT HELP RAISE PERFORMANCE- OR DOES IT CORRUPT THE LOVE OF LEARNING?
- PROSPECTS JOINS MUTUAL JOINT VENTURE TO DELIVER PUBLIC SERVICES-GOVERNMENT KEEN ON EMPLOYEE OWNED MUTUALS DELIVERING PUBLIC SERVICES
- PROFESSOR TONY WATTS RESIGNS FROM THE NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL
- EDISON LEARNING AND THE NAHT UNION LAUNCH A SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE WITH DFE BACKING
- THE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF ACADEMIES-WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE ARE CONCERNS?
- PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ACADEMIES-SOME CONCERNS OVER FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
- CAIRNS OF BRIGHTON COLLEGE BACKS ACADEMIES
- IS CAREERS ADVICE IN SCHOOLS EFFECTIVE OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY?
- LEMOVS TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION -TOP TECHNIQUES USED BY THE BEST TEACHERS
- THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS
- EDUCATION EXPORTS-NEW GOVERNMENT STRATEGY IN THE WINGS?
- INSPECTING ACADEMY CHAINS-ON THE AGENDA
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