Too many schools letting down gifted children
A landmark Ofsted survey, the most extensive investigation of gifted and talented provision they have ever undertaken, was published on 13 June.
The report The Most Able Students: Are they doing as well as they should in our non-selective secondary schools? -found that thousands of bright children are being let down by England’s non-selective secondary schools. More than a quarter (27%) of previously high-attaining pupils had failed to achieve at least a B grade in both English and maths.
A culture of low expectations meant able pupils were failing to achieve top GCSE grades, Ofsted said in a report.
In 2012, 65% of pupils – 65,000 children – who had achieved Level 5 in maths and English tests at the end of primary school failed to attain A* or A grades in both these subjects at GCSE.
Head teachers said school league tables pushed schools into the middle ground.
Ofsted defines high-achievers as those pupils who achieve a Level 5 in both English and maths in their national curriculum tests, commonly known as Sats.
In 40% of the schools visited by inspectors, the brightest students were not making the progress they were capable of and many had become “used” to performing at lower levels, with parents and teachers accepting this “too readily”, Ofsted said.
Tracking the progress of the most academically gifted was “not used sufficiently well in many schools”, the report added.
Ofsted was critical of mixed-ability classes, saying they often saw “a lack of differentiation, teaching to the middle, and the top pupils not being stretched”.
The report said teaching was “insufficiently focused” for able pupils in Key Stage 3 (aged 11-14) and schools should ensure class work was challenging at this stage so that able pupils could make rapid progress.
Some Key facts
62% of pupils (at non-selective secondary schools) who got Level 5 in their English Sats did not get an A* or A grade in this subject at GCSE in 2012
25% of pupils who got Level 5 in their English Sats failed to get at least a B
53% of students who got Level 5 in their maths Sats did not gain an A* or A grade in this subject at GCSE
22% of pupils who got Level 5 in maths in their Sats failed to get at least a B
Some comprehensive schools did ensure that bright children achieved high grades and applied to top universities by setting high expectations, identifying able children, giving challenging tasks and checking progress. But provision for able children was not good enough in 17 of the 41 schools, Ofsted said.
By way of comparison, 59% of selective state school – grammar school – students who attained level five in both English and maths at the end of their primary school education went on to achieve an A or A* in those subjects at GCSE level in 2012. The figure for students from non-selective schools was 35%. Comparisons with independent schools are not available.
On Thursday, Sir Michael Wilshaw told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the statistics were “pretty poor”, adding that children at selective state schools were far more likely to win places at top universities than those who went to non-selective ones.
“We’ve got to make sure that the great majority of youngsters do well and go to the top universities,” he said.
He said school leadership was crucial in improving pupils’ performances, as was creating a culture of scholarship and ensuring that students remained focused on their studies after Key Stage 3.
The findings matched earlier research by the Sutton Trust charity that many state schools in England were failing to advance their pupils towards the most selective universities. Its chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, called the Ofsted report “a wake-up call to ministers”.
“Schools must improve their provision, as Ofsted recommends. But the government should play its part too by providing funding to trial the most effective ways to enable our brightest young people to fulfil their potential.,” Lampl said.
Denise Yates, Chief Executive of the Potential Plus charity, which supports bright children, said: “We warned the Government in 2010 when it scrapped the gifted and talented programme that this would be the result. Many schools are doing a fantastic job in supporting these children. However we know from experience that busy schools will often only have time to focus on the latest priorities. The needs of the most able children have fallen to the bottom of the political and social agenda and it’s time to put it right to the top again.”
On Advice and Guidance the report said :
‘The schools visited did not always provide early, or effective, careers guidance to students to show, for example, the likely pay progression in ‘top jobs’. The absence of such guidance was compounded by a lack of effective information to increase students’ understanding of grants, loans, and the cost and benefits of attending university. Early and strong support for first-time entrants to university, including financial advice to students and parents, led to more positive outcomes.Some schools showed a lack of up-to-date, in-school intelligence about universities, especially in relation to universities outside their region. Current knowledge of the entry requirements for different courses was weak in some of the schools.However, this was not the picture in all the schools. In a third of those visited, well-qualified, knowledgeable and experienced staff provided high-quality support and guidance.’
The Department for Education (DfE) should:
ensure that parents receive from schools a report each year which communicates whether their children are on track to achieve as well as they should in national tests and examinations
develop progress measures to identify how well the most able students have progressed from Year 6 through Key Stage 4 to the end of Key Stage 5
promote the new destination data, which will show what proportion of students in sixth form providers go to university and, particularly, the Russell Group of universities.
Maintained schools and academies should:
develop their culture and ethos so that the needs of the most able students are championed by school leaders
help the most able students to flourish and leave school with the best qualifications by providing first-rate opportunities to develop the skills, confidence and attitudes needed to succeed at the best universities
improve the transfer between primary and secondary schools so that all Year 7 teachers know which students achieved highly, know what aspects of the curriculum the most able students have studied in Year 6, and use this information to plan and teach lessons that build on prior knowledge and skills
ensure that work continues to be challenging and demanding throughout Key Stage 3 so that the most able students make rapid progress
ensure that senior leaders evaluate mixed ability teaching so that the most able students are sufficiently challenged and make good progress evaluate the quality of homework set for the most able students to ensure that it is suitably challenging
give the parents and carers of the most able students better and more frequent information about what their children should achieve and raise their expectations where necessary
work with families more closely, particularly the families of first generation university applicants and those eligible for free school meals, to overcome any cultural and financial obstacles to university application
develop more in-house expertise and up-to-date knowledge to support applications to the most prestigious universities, particularly in relation to the knowledge and skills required for undergraduate courses
publish more widely a list of the university destinations of all their students.
focus more closely in its inspections on the teaching and progress of the most able students, the curriculum available to them, and the information, advice and guidance provided to the most able students
consider in more detail during inspection how well the pupil premium is used to support the most able students from disadvantaged backgrounds
report its inspection findings about this group of students more clearly in school inspection, sixth form and college reports.
Gifted Phoenix a blog written by an expert in the field sees a role for Free schools in supporting gifted children. Although there is nothing to prevent primary, secondary and all-through free schools from specialising in gifted education, the restriction on selection may be acting as a brake on innovation.
Also see Gifted Phoenix analysis of High Attaining Students in the 2012 Secondary School Performance Tables. This post collects and analyses data about the performance of high attaining students at Key Stages 4 and 5 in the 2012 Secondary Performance Tables and Key Stage 5 Tables respectively. It also draws on evidence from the Statistical First Reviews (SFRs) published alongside the tables.
Gifted Phoenix is the social media pseudonym of Tim Dracup a UK-based consultant in – and commentator on – gifted and talented education. You can also follow him on Twitter (@Gifted Phoenix) and on Facebook.
New CFBT Education Trust report offers some pointers, following school visits
In 2011 the CfBT Education Trust report ‘ To the next level: good schools becoming outstanding’ analysed the processes by which ‘good’ schools move up to ‘outstanding’, as rated by Ofsted . (see link below)
This new study To the next level: improving secondary school teaching to outstanding complements and builds on the previous report. It focuses on schools that either achieve and maintain high-quality teaching or succeed in rapidly improving the effectiveness of lessons. It explores the question of teaching excellence through observation in schools that have been on a journey towards excellence, together with interviews with experienced university teacher educators and a review of existing literature.
The report considered the common characteristics demonstrated by excellent teachers in their classrooms on a day-to-day basis. The study is set in the changing context of school improvement, which is putting a renewed emphasis on the quality of teaching and especially subject-specific pedagogy.
Interviews were conducted with experts in university education departments to shed more light on the precise features of very effective subject pedagogy. These experts confirmed the complex interplay of skills, knowledge and personal qualities to be found in the practice of effective teachers.
They especially emphasised the importance of these teachers’ awareness of the needs of individual learners and of the way they develop students’ conceptual understanding and skills within lessons and during longer units of work.
Nine secondary schools, selected for their success in improving teaching and learning, were visited for the study. Senior leaders, heads of subject departments, effective subject teachers and their students offered their views on why and how these teachers achieved their success. Sample lessons from each of the nine schools are briefly described, followed by more detailed case studies of five of the schools, tracing something of their improvement journey and philosophy.
The visits illustrate how schools with the most mature practice explore differences in pedagogy from subject to subject and advance the role of subject leaders. Lesson observation and study are a permanent part of a self-critical culture in these schools. The schools share two common characteristics: strong visionary leadership; and effective, integrated systems for regular quality review, performance management of teachers and associated continuous professional development.
The report draws together the findings from the literature, the interviews and the school visits to identify a number of key characteristics of success for improving teaching. See below for these key characteristics of success, and how they are manifested in schools with more mature systems and cultures.
Characteristics of success
• Inspirational leadership
• Accountability of teachers for the school’s success
• Shared expectations of quality
• A major emphasis on self-evaluation
• School-wide assessment for learning
• Teacher development mainly in-house
Schools with more mature systems and cultures
• Delegated leadership
• Lesson observation as a shared enquiry
• Effective teaching: customised within subjects and understood within a longer timeframe
• Instinctive and continuous self-evaluation
• Excellent assessment
• A perspective beyond the school
Such schools are those which have been performing well for some years, with established, stable senior leaders and staff at lower levels, and with mature systems for monitoring, evaluation and teacher development.
The report makes recommendations for moving to the highest stage in teaching quality, based on the findings of this small-scale study. These recommendations focus on:
• developing subject leaders
• making time for subject teams to meet and plan
• being subject-specific about pedagogy
• establishing longer units of work as the standard currency of scrutiny
• making judicious use of student self-assessment
• seeing the school as a contributor to local networks.
To the Next Level- good schools becoming outstanding’; Research Report; 2011-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Dougill ,Mike Raleigh ,Roy Blatchford, Lyn Fryer Dr Carol Robinson, John Richmond
To the next level: improving secondary teaching to outstanding; Research Report; 2013-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Daw , Carol Robinson
See also Tony McAleavy of CFBT Education Trust
Note: The research was led for Owen Education by Peter Daw. Carol Robinson conducted the review of UK research literature. Peter Daw conducted the interviews with university staff and made some of the visits to sample schools. Other school visits were carried out by Alan Howe and Helen Howard
Step change in the plight of interns
The government is to crack down on employers abusing national minimum wage laws following successful moves to reclaim nearly £200,000 in wages owed to unpaid interns.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is planning to take more aggressive steps after HMRC’s success over the last tax year in helping 167 people who identified themselves as interns, volunteers or work experience workers claw back £192,808 in unpaid wages. BIS says that over the coming year it will launch a social media campaign, publish a student hand-out and encourage people to name bad employers for investigation.
In a letter to Labour MP Hazel Blears, the employment relations minister, Jo Swinson, said the government would produce the booklet to make graduates aware of their employment rights in time for this summer, when hundreds of thousands of UK students are expected to start hunting for work experience placements, which can last – unpaid – for many months.
A recent survey of more than 150 young PR professionals has revealed that internships are poorly paid, lack diversity and do not even necessarily lead to a role in the end. Just 28 per cent were paid at or above the minimum wage, with almost as many (23 per cent) receiving no payment at all. Ten per cent had been paid expenses plus a small stipend, which was less than the national minimum wage. 15 per cent were paid the national minimum wage. 13 per cent received more than the national minimum wage. If you think the PR industry is unique in this respect, think again. The sector is no different than others, and may be better than most.
Under employment law, people who work set hours, do set tasks and contribute value to an organisation are “workers” and so are entitled to the minimum wage. This means even if your internship was just about being expected to turn up at a certain time and add some numbers in Excel you are likely to be entitled to pay.
So far, every time an intern has taken their employer to court for not being paid the minimum wage they have won. So employers should beware ( including a few MPs!). It is good that companies employ interns but they should be treated fairly and employers must operate within the law. Many top companies, perhaps most, expect job applicants to have done three or four internships, before considering them for a permanent job , and graduates are no exception.
The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it.
From 1 October 2013 the Minimum wage will be:
Aged 21 and over £6.31(£6.19)
Aged 18-20 £5.03 (£4.98)
Aged under 18 £3.72(£3.68)
Apprentice £2.68 (£2.65)
The Apprentice rate is for apprentices under 19 or those in their first year. If you’re 19 or over and past your first year you get the rate that applies to your age
Lemovs teaching techniques influencing Charter schools but also academies here
Doug Lemov, an American teacher and the author of Teach Like A Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college (2010) is having a considerable impact on some US schools in the Charter movement. Lemov is managing director of Uncommon Schools, a chain of 32 charter schools (the US equivalent of academies) operating in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. These have become the highest-performing schools in their districts, despite being located in some of the most deprived communities. Lemov’s book has become a “bible” for thousands of teachers in the US . It is also having an impact here. Ark, one of the most successful academy chains here, rather like his ideas .
Teach Like A Champion Field Guide is a practical resource to make the 49 techniques your own. It claims to provide a detailed look at top classroom techniques used by top teachers -that work. Lemov includes a DVD of teaching clips that illustrate what these techniques look like in practice. For each technique he provides enough detail on the practice but also seeks to provide an explanation of the rationale behind it.
The book is not just aimed as a tool for teachers. It seeks to provide a resource to help school leaders understand the elements of effective teaching which is vital in both observing and training their own teachers. When Lemov refers to a ‘technique’-what exactly does that mean? Here are two examples:
Technique 1: NO OPT OUT
In typical classes, when students don’t know an answer, or don’t want to try, they quickly learn the teacher will leave them alone if they respond to a question with “I don’t know” or shrugging their shoulders. The teacher then moves on to another student. Instead, NO OPT OUT is a useful tool to get all students to the right answer, as often as possible, even if only to repeat the correct answer.
For example, on day 1 to review you ask Charlie, “What is 3 times 8?” He mutters, “I don’t know” and looks away. Many teachers don’t know how to respond, and students come to use “I don’t know” to avoid work all year long. Instead, at a minimum, you can turn to another student, ask the same question, and if you get the correct answer, turn back to Charlie, “Now you tell me what is 3 times 8.”
Charlie, and all of the students, have just learned that they can’t get off the hook and must do the work in your class. In a more rigorous form of NO OPT OUT you or another student can provide a cue. For example, in a class where a student was unable to identify the subject of the sentence, “My mother was not happy” the teacher asked another student, “When I am asking you for the subject, what am I asking for?” The second student responded, “You are asking for who or what the sentence is about.” Then the teacher turned to the first student and said, “When I ask for the subject, I am asking for who or what the sentence is about. What’s the subject?” This time the student was able to respond correctly, “Mother.” The sequence began with the student unable to answer and ended up with him giving a correct answer. Note that the tone in most classrooms that use NO OPT OUT is positive and academic and using it only reinforces the teacher’s belief in students’ ability to get the right answer.
Technique 2: RIGHT IS RIGHT
Students often stop striving when they hear that their answer is “right.” However, many teachers often accept answers that are partially correct or not totally complete. They affirm these answers by repeating them and then adding information to make the answer completely correct. For example, when asked how the families in Romeo and Juliet get along a student says, “They don’t like each other.” You would hope that the teacher would ask for more elaboration, but instead, she might say, “Correct, they don’t like each other and have been feuding for generations.” By responding in this way, the teacher is setting a low standard for correctness. The key idea behind RIGHT IS RIGHT is that the teacher should set and defend a high standard of correctness by only naming “right” those answers which are truly and completely right. There are four ways to use the RIGHT IS RIGHT technique.
1. Hold out for all the way. When students are close to the answer, tell them they’re almost there. While great teachers don’t confuse effort and mastery, they do use simple, positive language to appreciate what students have done and to hold them to the expectation that they still have more to do. For example, “I like what you’ve done. Can you get us the rest of the way?”
2. Answer the question. Students learn if they don’t know an answer they can answer a different question, particularly if they relate it to their own lives. If they can’t identify a story’s setting, for example, a student might start with, “That reminds me of something in my neighbourhood…” Or, you ask for a definition and a student gives you an example, “Eyeball is a compound, word.” Instead, direct the student back to the question at hand, “Kim, that’s an example, I want the definition.”
3. Right answer, right time. Sometimes students get ahead of you and provide the answer when you are asking for the steps to the problem. While it may be tempting to accept this answer, if you were teaching the steps, then it is important to make sure students have mastered those steps, “My question wasn’t about the solution. It was, what do we do next?”
4. Use technical vocabulary. Good teachers accept words students are already familiar with as right answers, “Volume is the amount of space something takes up.” Great teachers push for precise technical vocabulary, “Volume is the cubic units of space an object occupies.” This approach strengthens a student’s vocabulary and better prepares him/her for college.
The TES reported on 12 April that Lemov’s Uncommon Schools are often visited by Future Leaders, which is why the charity is one of the biggest promoters of US teaching methods in England. Once a year, it flies a group of UK teachers to the US to see how particular schools in some of the poorest regions of the country function. Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders, says that the purpose of the US trips is more to do with school culture than pedagogy. The US as a whole, he admits, does not perform well, but there are pockets of brilliance where schools are working miracles.
“We are looking at very small subsets of very successful charter schools; schools that are achieving, by US standards, outstanding outcomes,” Monk says. “And they are doing so with some seriously challenging kids. It shows what can be achieved with an outstanding school culture, even when their pedagogy would likely be judged by Ofsted as requiring improvement.”
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.”
Most teachers reach a performance plateau after 3-5 years
Little evidence that teachers improve much after a couple of years
Alex Quigley , a teacher, writing in The Guardian this week ,reminded us that the author, Joshua Foer, originated the term ‘ok plateau’ in his popular science book, Moonwalking with Einstein, on the subject of improving memory. He used it to describe that common autopilot state when you have habitually mastered the basics of a task, but despite being skilled you stop really improving to reach expert status; you simply plateau in performance .Teachers are as prone as any other profession to this state. Indeed evidence, from Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain (2005) (see below), is that after the first couple of years teacher quality reaches a plateau and teacher experience beyond this point has a negligible impact upon student attainment. This, Quigley correctly claims, clashes with our basic presumptions about experience in teaching and it should certainly give us food for thought.
So, what is the evidence, more generally, about the impact of experience on teachers performance?
Experience does make a difference—especially at the beginning of a teacher’s career. On average, teachers with some experience are more effective than brand new teachers.
(Kane,Rockoff and Staiger (2006). “What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?” NBER Working Paper 12155.)
Teachers improve the most early in their careers. One study found that “close to half of the teacher achievement returns to experience arise during the first few years of teaching.” (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor (2007). “How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?” CALDER Working Paper)
The shift from no experience, to some experience, makes the biggest difference. One study found that “the bulk of the experience effects occur during the first year,” while another noted that “the effect of moving from being completely inexperienced to having a full year of experience” matters most.
(Harris and Sass (2007). “Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement.” CALDER Working Paper ) Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, and Wyckoff (2008). “The Narrowing Gap in Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement.” NBER Working Paper 14021
However, most teachers reach their peak after about five years in the classroom. Teachers gradually reach plateau after 3-5 years on the job.
(Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor (2006). “Teacher-student matching and the assessment of teacher effectiveness.” National Bureau of Economic Research)
As one study put it,“ there is little evidence that improvement continues after the first three years.” (Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain (2005). “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.” Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458.)
Another found that, on average, teachers with 20 years of experience are not much more effective than those with 5 years of experience. (Ladd, Helen F. (2008). “Value-Added Modelling of Teacher Credentials: Policy Implications)
Some studies suggest that effectiveness actually declines toward the end of a teacher’s career. For example, the most experienced high school maths teachers in the States may be less effective than their less experienced colleagues and even their inexperienced colleagues.
(Ladd (2008); Harris and Sass (2007))
Teacher performance varies at all levels of experience. Individual teachers tend to improve with experience, but not all teachers begin their careers with the same skills or rise to the same level.
(Xu, Hannaway,and Taylor (2009). “Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School.” CALDER Working Paper 17. National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research)
The fact that a fifth-year teacher is more effective than she was in her first year doesn’t mean she’s more effective than all first-year teachers. In fact, research shows that some less-experienced teachers are more effective than teachers with more experience.
(Sass, Hannaway, Xu, and Figlio (2010). “Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty and Lower-Poverty Schools.” CALDER Working Paper 52)
One study found that when layoffs are based on seniority alone, about 80% of the novice teachers who get pink slips are more effective than their lowest-performing colleagues who remain. (Goldhaberand Theobold (2010). “Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs.” Center for Education Data & Research, University of Washington-Bothell)
There is limited evidence, but not consensus, that returns to experience vary based on how a teacher is assigned over the years—by subject, and by how long they teach the same grade.
(Ost, Ben (2009). “How do Teachers Improve? The Relative Importance of Specific and General Human Capital.” Cornell University)
In teaching experience helps, but it doesn’t tell the full story—and it certainly doesn’t guarantee excellence. As one study of more than a half-million students concluded, “experience is not significantly related to achievement following the initial years in the profession.”
You would have thought that Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should be able to address this challenge. But part of the problem, according to Quigley (an English teacher at Huntington School, York) is ‘ our system of continuous performance development ’.
He writes ‘This system is tied to targets and professional standards that actually inhibit conscientious teachers taking risks and experimenting with new teaching strategies. We set targets, either consciously or subconsciously, so that we may meet them, regardless whether they genuinely improve our practice or not. Gone is the regular critical feedback of our first couple of years. We move into autopilot, often even entering a state of professional inertia.’
Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement Steven G. Rivkin; Eric A. Hanushek; John F. Kain Econometrica, Vol. 73, No. 2. (Mar., 2005), pp. 417-458.
Over a third of young people are interested in just ten occupations
Reinforces the case for access to good independent careers advice
A paper out last month asks a simple question: is there any alignment between the career aspirations of young people, aged between 13 and 18, and the best estimates of actual demand within the current and future British labour market?
The paper says ‘The question is relevant to young people, employers and the UK’s future prosperity. The question is pertinent to young people who make important decisions about their future at ages 14, 16 and 18. Such decisions, about subject options chosen or dropped and experience sought, gained or missed are essential to the ultimate prospects of young people in the jobs market. This paper asks, therefore, whether teenagers, as they make these decisions, do so with career aspirations in mind which reflect realistic opportunities in the world of work. The short answer is they don’t.
Emma Norris’s 2011 report for the Royal Society of Arts engaged 30 staff members and 32 students from four English Further Education Colleges in structured discussion about future decision-making. She found that: ‘students are not fully aware of the diversity of jobs available in different sectors. This leads them to develop aspirations that are neither determined by their ability nor based on a comprehensive understanding of the types of jobs available. …FE learners do not find it easy to access people who have experience of the careers or education they would like to pursue. As a result, their understanding of particular sectors is often restricted to only the most visible roles and jobs, for instance in law – a 4 barrister; in television – an actor. FE learners who decide to pursue law, or broadcasting, consequently direct their energies into attaining the most desirable, competitive and visible jobs in these disciplines as they are the only jobs they know of. (Norris 2011, 16)
A project team from the University of Glasgow reached similar conclusions in 2011.
Considering the attitudes and experiences of 490 pupils in three urban areas (London, Nottingham and Glasgow), the team lead by Ralf St Clair, found little knowledge of available jobs or how to get them: ‘there was little correspondence between the structure of [local] labour markets and young people’s aspirations and expectations. …Parents’ hopes for their children were mainly unspecific as to occupations; there appears to be little awareness of routes to success. …Overall, there seemed to be a common lack of understanding of the ways in which school, post-school education and vocations were linked (St Clair et al, 2011, 58, 64)
A further recent study, also commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, reached a similar conclusion.
Loic Menzies’s review of the aspirations of disadvantaged pupils found that they were often high, but that commonly such young people and their parents lacked the knowledge and connections to provide reliable insight into how to achieve career ambitions (Menzies 2013).’ The results support the findings from earlier studies cited above that commonly young people are unable to understand the breadth of ultimate job opportunities across the economy leading them to potentially identify unrealistic career aspirations. From an employer perspective, the findings presented in this paper strongly suggest that labour market signalling is not working. The survey shows 36.3% of teenagers to be interested in just 10 occupations (teacher/lecturer, lawyer, accountant, actor/actress, police, IT consultant, doctor, sportsman/woman, army/navy/airforce/fire fighter, psychologist) and, as stated, half of career interests to lie in just three of 25 broad occupational sectors. While some employers will be spoilt for choice in considering new recruits, others are very likely to be struggling to find young people who are aware of the job opportunities they have to offer and well prepared by their educational choices for them.
Again, this reinforces the case for easy, early access in schools and colleges to high quality, independent careers guidance for teenagers.Ofsted is currently reviewing careers advice in schools but anecdotal evidence from Careers England suggests that the quality and scope of this advice varies dramatically between schools, following recent changes . Face to face advice from a professional is not always easily accessible although this is seen as the most appropriate form of advice for disadvantaged pupils.
Nothing in common: The career aspirations of young Britons mapped against projected labour market demand (2010-2020) Dr Anthony Mann, David Massey, Peter Glover, Elnaz T. Kashefpadkel and James Dawkins March 2013
This report represents the results of a collaboration between b-live, charity the Education and Employers Taskforce and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. It is published within the Taskforce’s Occasional Research Papers Series.
Common practice in schools is often not based on sound evidence ,according to a new book
Albert Einstein defined insanity as: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In education, it is fair to say that some practices are repeated again and again without much change in outcomes. It is also true to say that rather too often common practices are not backed by any evidence. They happen because that’s the way its always been done. Insanity-maybe not- but a desperately poor and counter-productive use of resources, certainly.
“Bad Education, Debunking Myths in Education”, is a book of research essays addressing widely-held educational myths and examining their gossamer-thin evidence-basis. It canvasses the existing research on everything from teacher assistants, through learning styles to ability grouping, and in most cases demonstrates convincingly that these practices have no sound basis in evidence. The mantra -evidence based practice- trips easily off the tongue, but has been honoured as much in its breach as in its observance.
A striking conclusion from Professor Dylan Wilam in the first chapter – is that the PISA studies suggest that teaching is slightly less good in independent schools on average than in state schools (p12), despite attainment being much higher in private schools Wiliam says ‘… controlling for the social class of the students, students in state schools and private schools in the UK perform about the same…’ Wiliam, as it happens, is a frequent debunker and clearly rather enjoys being counter-intuitive. The data suggests that schools are more or less the same all over and that it doesn’t really matter which school you go to as long as you go to school. In terms of progress, there is little difference. So, instead of measuring the number of A’s our students get we should be looking solely at the progress they are making. The only factor we should be really addressing is the learning they are doing rather than the best grades overall. Wiliam believes more generally, that we should focus much more on the quality of teaching as this has a big effect on outcomes, both good and bad. There are poor quality teachers in the system, but rather than demonise them, says Wiliam, help them to improve .
Then there is the issue of ‘Grouping pupils by ability in schools’. Ed Baines tries to make the case that setting is done for all of the wrong reasons and, in some circumstances, can be detrimental to the education of some. Ability grouping is the most common form of setting in Secondary schools in the UK. It seems to be accepted that it is ‘best’ for all children as we can focus on individual needs more appropriately if there is less of a disparity in ability in one class. The data though doesn’t seem to back that up.
Ed Baines claims that, in the higher ability groups, overall average effect seems to be negligible. There is evidence of slight improvements in some cases, for sure – when a curriculum is specifically designed for that ability group – but more often than not there is very little or no effect. In some circumstances the pace of curriculum coverage can cause some students to fall back in higher ability groups.
But in lower ability groups, setting can prove close to disastrous according to Baines. The pace of work drops as it is believed that lessons need to be more structured and repetitive for lower ability groups to function. This breeds boredom and disengagement at a time when creativity and inspiration is needed more than ever. Add to this the removal of the advantages of working with those who are more able and you can see who gets the bad deal here. It doesn’t help that, as Baines found in his research:
‘… schools may tend to allocate the most knowledgeable and experienced teachers to the high ability groups and the less knowledgeable or experienced teachers to the low ability and difficult classes.’
This particular chapter on grouping by ability by Baines suggests that, since it is disadvantageous for the least able it should be avoided. (again, as is often the case the needs of the more able pupils, if not ignored, are given little weight) The more successful setting by ability seems to happen ‘Within Class Ability Groups’, which is rare in Secondary school but very prominent in Primary. The ability to differentiate group tasks with the advantage of changing to mixed ability peer groups seems to be the most successful model.
This is an interesting read and useful for Heads, teachers and governors. If you want to know what interventions work best based on evidence look at the recent toolkit provided by the Education Endowment Foundation.
Bad Education: Debunking Myths in Education [Paperback] Philip Adey (Author), Justin Dillon (Author)
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.
- STEPHEN TWIGG-VERSUS ANNE MCELVOY- ON THE FIRST DUTY OF A SECRETARY OF STATE
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- GRAMMAR SCHOOLS-NO THREAT TO STATUS-BUT EXPANSION IS UNLIKELY
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- OFSTED REPORT-ON ABLE CHILDREN-NOT ENOUGH SUPPORT FROM SCHOOLS
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