Ofsted currently has no explicit powers to inspect academy chains
But much will be expected from Chains
Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Select Committee recently (13 February) that he thinks Ofsted should have powers to inspect Academy chains . He also believes the DfE has accepted the need for this. Indeed he doesn’t see why Academy chains shouldn’t be subject to some sort of performance table as LAs are. Wilshaw said “We should inspect academy chains as well to make sure it’s equitable with LAs. I’ve made that clear to the Secretary of State and it’s been accepted”
David Laws, the schools Minister of State, in a PQ on 10 April, said ‘Ofsted does not have an explicit power to inspect groups to which academies belong but has a duty (section 5 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools and a power (section 8 of the Education Act 2005) to inspect individual schools outside of normal inspection schedules. Ofsted may therefore take a view on the support and challenge provided by an overarching body during an individual school inspection.’
In short, academy chains will have to demonstrate in future that they add value in educational terms. It should also be remembered that Ofsted will, in future, be looking carefully at how schools narrow the achievement gap. In his 5 March 2013, speech David Laws said “Ofsted is also doing much more to hold schools to account for closing the attainment gaps. Solid overall attainment is no longer enough to secure a “Good” or “Outstanding” classification, if there are large performance gaps. The Chief Inspector for Schools and I both agree that a school simply cannot be regarded as “Outstanding” if it is failing its disadvantaged pupils, and he will look at this when he next revises the inspection framework.”
Ofsted may adjust its framework this September giving careers advice a priority
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector, has given the strongest indication yet that schools’ careers provision could be formally inspected as part of Ofsted’s framework from September.
While inspectors take into account the extent to which “pupils have gained a well-informed understanding” of the career options available to them, there is no separate grade for careers provision. As a result, critics have warned that schools are not being adequately monitored to ensure they comply with their statutory duty to provide pupils with impartial and objective advice on qualifications and pathways into training, further and higher education and work. Ofsted is, however, undertaking a ‘thematic’ review of careers advice in schools. Early signs, though, are that the quality and scope of careers advice now on offer in schools varies dramatically.
Appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee on 13 February, Sir Michael stressed the need to “recalibrate the schools framework to focus more on careers advice”.
“It’s really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes and I’m not sure that’s the case,” he told MPs. “In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.”
The Full exchange- Education Select Committee Hearing 13 February:
Q27 Pat Glass: Can I move off the agenda slightly and ask you a different question? When Matthew Hancock, the Minister, appeared before us recently, we were looking at careers advice and guidance, and he said he was looking to Ofsted to inspect and monitor that. I pointed out that Ofsted had said very clearly that they did not see it as their role to inspect the statutory duty in schools, and asked him if he was going to have a word with you. Has he had a word with you about it?
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Matthew might want to come in here. My view is that it is a good idea to devolve this funding to schools.
Q28 Pat Glass: There is no funding being devolved to schools; the only thing that is being devolved is the statutory duty.
Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes. It is important that we do monitor it effectively. It is really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes, and I am not sure that is the case. In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September, we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.
An Ofsted spokeswoman later qualified Sir Michaels remarks, telling the TES (22 February) that the watchdog would not make a final decision on whether to give careers greater prominence in school inspection reports until the summer. “We will draw on the findings of the Ofsted thematic survey, due to be published in the summer, and consider if any changes are required to its inspection frameworks,” she said.
The Government recently announced that schools careers duty will be extended to years 8 to 13 from September 2013
The Academies Act 2010 granted academy trusts exempt charity status, making them exempt from registration with and primary regulation by the Charity Commission, from 1 August 2011. The definition of an exempt charity is one that is ‘ not regulated by and cannot register with, the Charity Commission.’ So, they have this status because they are regulated by some other body. The Secretary of State for Education is now the principal regulator of academies and oversees their compliance with both charity and education law. But the education secretary has handed over the role of funding distribution and compliance for academies to the Education Funding Agency, which is an executive agency of the DFE. The Academy Trust signs an agreement (The Funding Agreement) with the Secretary of State , and so is accountable to the Secretary of State, not the local authority.Indeed independence from local authority control and bureaucracy has been regarded as one of the attractions of academy status.
But what happens if an academy, autonomous from the LA, is under performing or failing? This is an area where local authorities in the past have played an important role, (some, of course, more effectual than others), in spotting early potential problems.
Elizabeth Truss MP, the junior education minister, made it clear recently in a Commons question that ’ it is not the role of local authorities (LAs) to intervene in underperforming academies. Academies are autonomous from LAs and their performance is a matter for the Department through the Office of the Schools Commissioner. If a local authority (LA) has concerns about an individual academy, we expect the LA to raise these concerns with the Academy Trust in first instance. If the LA feels that the Academy Trust is failing to take sufficient action concerns can be raised with Ofsted or the Secretary of State.’
Two questions then arise-if LAs no longer have the powers or budget to oversee academies, how are they, within an autonomous school system , supposed to spot potential problems with schools? And who, apart from Ofsted, is there to fill this accountability gap?
The difficulty in giving a straight answer to both these questions explains why the debate continues on whether or not some form of intermediate tier is required between the SOS and schools, as part of the ‘intelligent’ accountability framework.
Sir Michael Wilshaw , the Chief Inspector,told the Education Select Committee on 13 February that local authorities should be able to “identify under performance in academies “They have a powerful part to play in local authority schools, those schools they control, and those outside their direct control,” Sir Michael said.“They identify under-performance in academies. They should be writing to the chair of governors and the sponsor of that academy and contacting the academy division at the department.”He also said that he wanted Ofsted to inspect academy chains and is in talks with the Secretary of State on this issue.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment about the whole GCSE reform announcement was the name of the new qualification, that will replace the GCSE.
It purports to be a ‘ Baccalaureate’. It is ,of course ,no such thing.
To suggest that these revamped GCSEs are a form of Baccalaureate is, in itself, misleading. After all, that suggests a cross curricular approach to studies, more teaching time to support pupils ,more self-motivated individual study and project work, none of which is envisaged in this new EBC qualification, or certainly not as announced this week. The term ‘Baccalaureate’ is used to make it sound thoroughly european, cross cutting, and modern.
Those who run the International Baccalaureate, and indeed who study it, have grounds for feeling somewhat peeved by the antics of politicians who bandy the term Baccalaureate around , in such a cavalier, interchangeable ,and ,frankly, disingenuous, way.
Some hoped the qualification would be called the O Level, others ‘ the Gove Level’. Imagine failing the Gove! It cant be the Ebacc ,which we already have, of course, as that is not actually a qualification, even though Ministers insist on referring to the future qualification as the Ebacc , adding to the confusion.
The Ebacc, as we know it, and have understood it until now at least, is a measure of the achievement (though not a qualification) of pupils who have gained GCSE or iGCSE passes, graded A*-C, in English, mathematics, two sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity ( ie history or geography). It is seen as just one new piece of information included in the achievement and attainment tables, aimed at encouraging schools to focus on core academic subjects.
The new qualification on the other hand is the English Baccalaureate Certificate ,or EBC. Still with me? See the difference?
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP prompted a few sniggers in the back row of the lower sixth form when he quipped: ‘The problem with EBACC is it sounds like a rather disappointing run of O-level results’ (or GCSE results for that matter).
Calling the qualification a Baccalaureate is intended to transmit the impression that this qualification is something that it clearly is not, whatever its intrinsic merits,(and there are some real positives). So, its not a great start.
ACADEMIES, THE CURRICULUM AND CREATIONISM
They can depart from the National Curriculum but..
While publicly funded independent schools ie academies/free schools will continue to have the freedom to depart from the new national curriculum, where they consider that to be in the best interests of their students, the Government is keen to stress ‘they are required by law to teach a broad and balanced curriculum’. As is the case now, the government envisages that’ many such schools will, in practice, continue to offer the national curriculum, and they will be accountable to parents and their local communities for any decisions they take.’ There have been concerns that Academies and Free Schools will be teaching ‘Creationism’. There has been much scaremongering about this issue but frankly the threat that creationists will gain a foothold in Free Schools is slim to negligible.
This is the Governments attempt to address this particular concern: ‘Free Schools are not permitted to teach creationism as a valid scientific theory in any subject and the Government would not approve any school that intended to do so. The model funding agreement for free schools requires that free schools shall not make provision in the context of any subject for the teaching, as an evidence-based view or theory, of any view or theory that is contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations. (Lords PQ 28 August).’
In short, the funding agreement between the DFE and Free School offers a significant safeguard, and self-evidently school inspectors will continue to monitor what is being taught in schools. Parents can also alert Ofsted to any concerns they might have.
This summer, all the GCSE exam boards in England (AQA, Edexcel and OCR), raised the grade boundaries for the controlled assessment part of their English qualifications compared with the winter exam series. It would appear that those pupils entering GCSE English with AQA did less well than those with other Boards.
So the central allegation appears to be that children sitting the English exam in January will have achieved a higher grade than if they had sat it in July or with another Board .For the units causing concern — written controlled assessments — 7 per cent of entries were taken in January and 93 per cent in June.
This is what Ofqual the regulator is looking at and will report on today.The Education Select Committee will look at the issue too but clearly doesn’t have the technical nous, or easy access to information to do as good a job as Ofqual can, or is certainly equipped to do , and politicians, even Select Committee members , although tasked with uncovering the truth, and holding the Department to account , have been known to pursue their own political agendas. which can from time to time serve to muddy the waters.
Ofqual, in its report released Friday PM, refused to order exam boards to regrade this summer’s English GCSE . It stood by the new June grading system but also suggested that the marking of exams taken earlier in the year was too generous. It said it will not change the results for either date, so there will be no regrading, but will offer early re-sits in November for students unhappy with their grades. This is unlikely to satisfy all stakeholders, given that some pupils need their results now.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, who heads Ofsted, said on 2 September ”This is a really good opportunity for our system and the secretary of state to look at our examination system and ask whether it is rigorous enough, whether it’s credible enough, whether what’s happened over the last few years in terms of resits, early entries and the modular approach to examination is actually raising standards”
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, told the BBC on 3 September that the students who sat the exams – in which thousands did not achieve their predicted grades – were not treated in a “fair or appropriate” way and that “injustice” was inherent in the exam system. But he added that it would be wrong for him to intervene to change the grades, after Ofqual, the regulator, refused to regrade the exams. He suggested that the uproar over the grades reinforced the need to move away from modular exams and towards a new qualification where it could be certain there was no grade inflation. Gove has made in clear that he wants fundamental reforms to examinations and caused controversy earlier this year by appearing to suggest that he wanted a return to the more robust O Level format. He said in the Commons on 3 September that GCSEs ” are not fit for purpose “.
Is a middle tier needed to ensure better accountability in the schools system?
The RSA was discussing last week the idea of a middle tier in education. There is concern that as schools are given greater autonomy from local authority influence, and made directly accountable to the Secretary of State, through their funding agreements, they will, in practice, be less accountable than they were before the changes. There are over 1700 schools now with academy status and the numbers continue to rise. Who is keeping a close local eye on their performance, providing ,for example, early warning of a school that is badly under performing ? Local authorities are/were supposed to do this ( with varying degrees of success, it has to be said)
Rick Muir of the IPPR has argued that school improvement cannot be driven successfully from Whitehall. The Department for Education cannot run 20,000 schools. Every successful school system, he points out, has a middle tier of governance between schools and the centre. Ofsted is currently proposing to re-inspect schools requiring improvement after 12-18 months. But, he argues, it is not close enough to schools to monitor performance on a month-by-month basis, spot problems early on and to intervene before the problems escalate. There are a number of functions this (middle) tier will need to perform, he says. In successful systems intermediary bodies help to drive school improvement by monitoring the performance of the schools under their jurisdiction and supporting weaker school leaders to improve. They are crucial in managing the relationship between schools and central government, such as by explaining national policy developments and ensuring that critical national programmes are implemented. He adds that ‘An effective middle tier also fosters collaboration between schools, for instance by moving teachers around to fill gaps or by supporting their professional development through specialist training and peer support. It ensures that the needs of all local children are met by regulating fair access, providing sufficient school places and managing services for children with special educational needs. The middle tier can also carry out administrative roles, such as in finance and procurement, that can distract schools from their main purpose.’
Muir concludes that the government seems content to see local authorities wither away, while hoping that academy chains such as Harris, ARK and Oasis will take on these roles. While Academy chains are well placed to carry out some of these tasks it has become clear that chains will only cover a minority of schools: so far, only a quarter of ‘converter academies’ have joined these wider chains. Moreover, some of the chains are rather loose arrangements, without clear leadership and effective coordination’
So, Muir recommends the creation of local schools commissioners, who would commission (but not run or manage) all of the schools in their area, including free schools and academies, and have a singular focus on school improvement. Schools would retain the freedoms they enjoy today and these would be guaranteed in statute. But if schools coast or underperform the schools commissioner would have the power that currently rests with the secretary of state to intervene, ultimately by appointing a new head and governing body.
Christine Gilbert the former Head of Ofsted ,for her part, believes town halls should no longer be at the heart of school improvement and monitoring. Nor is she keen on the idea of local commissioners or any other kind of new “middle tier” idea. Ms Gilbert thinks the job should be left to schools themselves. “It would be the profession supporting the profession,” she explains. “They (local authorities) have a role, particularly in making sure that vulnerable children are well served,” she concedes. “But I see the energy in the system coming from schools. I would really like to see the schools themselves in prime position, to be leading and driving this. “You can do it with other private, public or voluntary sector partners. But I would like to see (groups of schools) given contracts to do that for four or five years. Notions of commissioners and other sorts of middle tier are not the right way for us to be going at the moment.” She added, talking to the TES ,that there would need to be a proper framework with contracts that could be terminated if schools were not meeting their performance indicators or contractual duties.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, says that there could be a system of nationally-funded local area commissioners. He suggested that the local commissioners would report directly to the secretary of state, monitoring the performance of schools and chains in their area and bringing in other agencies where necessary and appropriate.
John Dunford points out that McKinsey research has shown that all the highly successful school systems in the world have a middle tier between central government and the individual school and most of the jurisdictions in the McKinsey study are much smaller than England. So, he suggests a network of about 40 District HMIs charged with monitoring performance of schools in their area, getting to know head teachers and keeping an ear to the ground for good and bad practice in local schools. He says that with a truly independent Ofsted, this could provide valuable intelligence to the system, helping to spread good practice and advising Ofsted and the government on where intervention is needed at an earlier stage than tends to happen now. Their remit would cover all types of school and issues between local authorities and academies would be entirely avoided by this nationally-led system. In short, the reinvention, in an up-to-date form, of district HMIs would be beneficial, not least because it would force Ofsted to play a stronger role in school improvement, as well as in (intelligent) accountability.
The RSA looks at the middle tier from a curriculum perspective. RSA is concerned about who determines the curriculum offer provided by schools, and on what basis. The Government will need to monitor the different emergent curriculum offers provided, in relation to effectiveness, it says. The RSA advocates that such consideration include the curriculum’s role ‘in promoting engagement and local cohesion and agency.’
The RSA recommend, as part of another tier, that the respective roles of teachers, communities, parents and school leaders are considered in developing curriculum offers, and in their evaluation. However, the RSA has doubts about teachers capacity on their own to develop curriculum and to engage with communities and supports the idea that local commissioning or regulatory bodies may be necessary to form an intermediate layer between individual institutions and the centre. What these intermediate bodies look like is the subject of on-going debate. The RSA advocates that such bodies be comprised of teachers, parents and community representatives as a means of ensuring local accountability and engagement.
Schools, yes ,even Academies fail. Spotting schools that are on the cusp of failure and which need urgent support is important and saves much bother and expense further down the line. As Dunford says ‘With autonomy in any public service comes greater accountability for the efficient and effective spending of public money. The issue is not whether there should be this accountability, but whether it is intelligent accountability and by whom it is exercised.’ Whether his model is the best to deliver this is a moot point. But this debate is certainly useful and important as evidenced by the Regulators intervention.
They are not the only ones
The Public Accounts Select Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, in its latest report ‘Department for Education: accountability and oversight of education and children’s services’ expresses its concern ‘ about the Department’s (DFE) ability to pick up warning signs of improper spending or poor value for money for the taxpayer.’
The report said that it is not clear whether existing monitoring and accountability mechanisms do enough to flag up concerns that should be investigated. For example, some academies have paid very high salaries to their senior staff and incurred expenditure of questionable value. Where reports emerge of individual failings, the Department must consider whether they indicate wider problems with financial management and governance, and deal with the underlying system-wide causes.’
The Committees adds that ‘The Department must set out how it will ensure local monitoring mechanisms promptly pick up any concerns about the regularity, propriety and value for money of spending within all schools. At present too much reliance is placed on whistle-blowers. The Department and its agencies must ensure that they have arrangements in place to address concerns identified by whistle-blowers, but it is also crucial that systems are sufficiently robust to enable those responsible to identify problems early.’
The Committee also said that ‘The Department has only a limited understanding of why some local authority maintained schools are persistently in deficit or surplus. The Department needs to undertake work to better understand the causes and consequences of persistent deficits and excessive surpluses. It should analyse the extent of deficits and surpluses among those schools under local authority control, and work with the Department for Communities and Local Government to get local authorities that have failed to resolve long-standing financial problems in their schools to address these.’
The Committee is also worried about who is responsible for securing value for money within the schools system. The report states ‘Responsibility for value for money is shared by the Department with the Department for Communities and Local Government, individual schools, academy trusts, local authorities and the YPLA. However, the specific responsibilities of each for achieving value for money, and how they interact to drive value for money, are not clear.’ Recent scandals involving the mismanagement of school funds, most recently in Lincolnshire, cast a spotlight on schools financial accountability. Critics of the academies scheme say that the increased autonomy these schools enjoy will increase the instances of financial mismanagement.
However, most of the cases of financial mismanagement discovered, so far, involve maintained schools, under local authority control. Three heads ,for example, have been suspended recently by Brent Council over separate allegations of financial mismanagement. So it would be unwise, surely, to use this as a stick with which to beat academies.
Local authorities have not been publishing, for a while now ,systematic data to demonstrate how they are monitoring schools’ financial management and intervening where necessary when they have concerns. It is true that many in education believe that a much brighter light should be shone on how schools manage their finances. Weak financial management and weak academic performance often go hand in hand. And, there is a lot of taxpayers money tied up in schools. Being cavalier with taxpayers money is now frowned on, or at least in principle . The trend, if anything, is for much less scrutiny and a reduction in the bureaucratic burden placed on schools. An example , from January this year , Ofsted’s new inspection regime no longer includes a value-for-money assessment. So, it will be interesting to see how the government reacts to this report. There are, on the face of it, conflicting forces at work. The drive to give schools more autonomy, with less red tape and a lighter regulatory regime is on one side of the equation-with the desire for greater transparency, accountability, the pursuit of best value and cutting waste, on the other. Can a compromise be found?
EARLY YEARS QUALIFICATIONS NUTBROWN REPORT
Professor Nutbrowns Interim report flags up unnecessary complexity of qualifications and concerns over quality
The Government launched an independent review, led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown, to consider how best to strengthen qualifications and career pathways in the foundation years. Nutbrown has just published her ‘interim’ report.
Good early years education and care, it is widely acknowledged, and backed by international evidence, can have a profoundly positive impact on babies and young children, reaching into their later childhood and adulthood.
The review looks at qualifications both for young people who are new to the early education and childcare sector, and for those already employed – and also how to promote progression into the labour market, higher level education and other training routes. Professor Nutbrown conducted a large-scale public consultation to gather evidence towards her review. The report of this call for evidence was released alongside her interim report, and can be found via the link below.
The Interim report sets out the shared concerns among the workforce about their qualifications system.
The Review says that ‘Despite the strong evidence on the importance of early education in children’s development, work in early education and childcare is widely seen as low status, low paid, and low skilled. The early years qualifications picture is over-complicated, with significant doubts over whether the content of courses covers the skills and knowledge that people need to work in the sector.’ The variation in the content of qualifications is significant, and presents real problems to students trying to understand what to study, and employers considering potential applicants for jobs. And despite the best efforts of the CWDC, it is still not possible to get consistent figures on the total number of early years qualifications available.
The report concludes that the qualifications currently available do not always equip students to be effective practitioners in the early year’s sector. Nursery staff and childminders are allowed to work at pre-school groups without displaying basic literacy or numeracy skills. Indeed, colleges demand more qualifications for students training to look after animals than for those who will care for babies, the report said.Nurseries are employing staff with no qualifications.
Nutbrown found that “competence in English and maths” was often not required to complete qualifications. Pupils with the “poorest academic records” were being steered on to childcare courses as an alternative to hairdressing.
Professor Nutbrown is considering the following issues as she develops her recommendations for government:
An effective qualifications structure that motivates people working in the early years and tells employers what skills and knowledge they have.
Courses that prepare people for working in the early years, raise the standards of those choosing to enter the profession, give them the right skills in literacy and numeracy and include the latest cutting edge detail about child development.
The case for expanding the role of teachers in the early years, creating new teaching pathways with an early years specialism, linking more closely the education worlds of the school and the early years.
For further consideration:
How do we ensure that the complex historical, current, and future qualifications picture does not act as a barrier to those who want to train and learn?
What should be the expectations for the content and agerange for early years qualifications, and the preparation demanded to achieve them?
Should we seek to raise the minimum level of qualification required of the workforce, and if so, to what and by when?
What is the best way to ensure that tutors have up-to-date knowledge and skills and are qualified to the right level?
How can we ensure that settings are supported to play an effective role in the training of their staff and students on placement?
What levels of literacy and numeracy should we expect of the early years workforce, and how can we secure these?
How can we best establish clear progression routes for all members of the sector (including black and minority ethnic groups), and support less well qualified members of the workforce to progress?
Is there a strong case for introducing an early years initial teacher education route, and how might the practical obstacles be addressed?
Is there a case for a licensing system and, if so, what model might be best?
REVIEW OF EARLY EDUCATION AND CHILDCARE QUALIFICATIONS: INTERIM REPORT ;MARCH 2012
Difficult times ahead?
The IB has enjoyed an increase in popularity over the last few years (close to 200 schools teach it) but is now experiencing its most difficult period. While the numbers of pupils taking the IB has been on the rise, for the first time schools are beginning to drop the award. The most recent to do so is a leading independent school, Kings Wimbeldon. The award is widely seen as more challenging than the A level and claims, with some justification, not to be a victim of grade inflation. But it is also seen by teachers and pupils alike as more challenging. No bad thing, say supporters ,who say it’s the opposite of by rote learning, encouraging breadth and real understanding of the subjects studied. The ideal IB candidate is self-motivated and inquisitive. The Diploma also requires more teaching time, so it is more expensive to deliver. Already schools complain that they spend too much on exams and testing so any award that is relatively costly, at a time when budgets are under pressure, is going to have the cards stacked against it, whatever its merits. There is another issue that is sometimes glossed over. The IB requires the post 16 study of maths and a science, subjects that pupils are often very keen to drop.
The IB, which it is often forgotten, operates at three levels: the Primary Years Programme for students aged between 5 and 11, the Middle Years Programme for those aged 11 and 16 and the Diploma Programme in the Sixth Form. The last is the most common in the UK. The Primary and Middle Years levels are rarely taught in the UK (mainly international schools for the middle years programme -and of course Wellington College-whose Head Anthony Seldon admitted that introducing the MYP was a risk). Although some state schools run the IB most of the take-up is in the independent sector. And quite a few schools who offer the IB, also continue to offer A levels as an option.
Students on the diploma study six subjects, and specialise in three. They choose these from six subject groups to ensure a breadth of learning: first and second languages, humanities, sciences, maths, and the arts. They also write a 4,000-word essay, take classes in the theory of knowledge, and commit to 150 hours of CAS (creativity, action, service).
Running the IB programmes, though, is a challenge for schools and is not a task that should be lightly undertaken. Marlborough College is still searching for a Head having stipulated that it wanted someone with a sound knowledge and experience of the IB Diploma. Rumour has it that the candidates that they have seen who were proficient in all matters IB ( fishing in relatively small pool) had perceived deficiencies elsewhere. (no names no pack drill)
It is fair to say that the IB may be in some danger of becoming an obsolete qualification and disappearing as a mainstream award over the medium term unless universities play their part in keeping the award alive. In theory IB students should be attractive to Higher education institutions and their admissions tutors as it encourages the kind of self-reliance and lateral thinking that they are on the look- out for in candidates , but as things stand, see far too little of. But its not that easy. Indeed, supporters of the IB believe that admission tutors are being far too harsh on IB candidates and must take decisive action and insist that the offers for IB students reflect the depth and breadth of study it demands. Rather too many IB students believe the IB is receiving unsympathetic offers from universities, and this is having a direct impact on the number opting to sit the IB Diploma. If you hear of disappointed IB students not getting the offers they thought they might , then you, as a pupil , begin to worry and this is shared in spades by parents and slowly confidence leaches away.
UK universities are systematically underestimating top candidates with IB qualifications in their admissions procedures, according to recent research by Professors Anna Vignoles and Francis Green of the Institute of Education .They found that at the top end of the scale, universities are demanding higher scores from IB candidates than from their A-level equivalents. Overall, universities systematically deviate from the official recommendation (provided by UCAS) in the offers they make to IB students. Universities tend to ask their IB applicants for higher IB points than officially recommended, but adjust too far at the top end of the scale. The report states “In institutions with IB students having an average grade of 37 or more, for example, we find that the IB students are 5.4 percentage points more likely to achieve an upper second class degree or better.”
Dr Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College, put the concerns as follows in a letter to Times Higher Education Supplement – ‘My own experience as the head of an independent school offering both A Level and IB informs my alarm. It is deeply frustrating to see two students of comparable ability being asked for (for the A Level student) three grade As at A Level and (for the IB student) 40 points with – and here is the sting – two 7s and a 6 at Higher Level. That A Level student, doing modular A Levels, is almost assured of gaining his or her place; for the IB student there is far less certainty. Students are being penalised for taking the tougher option. ‘
With competition for places at top universities getting harder all the time the very idea that IB students are not getting a fair deal has the potential to undermine the qualification. Those who support the IB as an important qualification and absolutely suited to the requirements of some pupils, which I do, need to work hard with stakeholders to resolve the outstanding issues and the sooner the better.
Note; The IB Diploma should not be confused with the other Diplomas introduced by the last government which were neither vocational nor academic qualifications –so had a bit of an identity crisis right from the start. (qualifications should be demand- led not prescribed, top down by politicians and officials). Poorly conceived, marketed and managed, they never quite managed to establish themselves as robust qualifications among stakeholders, though championed and over-sold by education ministers in the last government.
- 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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