Access and participation in the HE Green Paper

Originally posted on Eponymous :


This post casts a critical eye over the proposals for widening participation and fair access in the Higher Education Green Paper.

It succeeds an earlier post – ‘Can we expect a rocket boost for fair access?’ (October 2015) – that discussed what was known of the Government’s intentions prior to publication.



BIS published the Green Paper: ‘Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’ on Friday 6 November.

Fridays are not normally selected for high profile Government announcements.

There were reports that a launch originally scheduled for Thursday 15 October was delayed to coincide with a Prime Ministerial speech:

‘There are suggestions that one factor behind Mr Cameron’s growing focus on widening participation is that, in the wake of the government’s decision to abolish child poverty targets which were being missed, universities are one of the key fields where the Conservatives…

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Closing the curtains on key stage 2 level 6 assessment

Originally posted on Eponymous :


This post provides updated information about trends in Key Stage 2 Level 6 performance.



Two further datasets have been released since I published a summary of Provisional KS2 Level 6 results for 2015 (August 2015):

  • 2015 static national transition matrices for KS1-2 reading, writing and maths were added to RAISEonline on 29 October.
  • L6 test entries for 2015 and preceding years were included in SFR42/2015, published on 5 November.

This permits further analysis of KS2 L6 attainment and progress.


L6 test entries

Chart 1 shows annual L6 test entries since 2012.

I had expected that confirmation of the abolition of L6 tests would depress 2015 entries severely across the board. But only in the reading test did entries fall below their 2014 level – and then only slightly.

This dip may have been more attributable to problems with the 2014 test: the drastically lower success…

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Which grammar schools want more pupil premium students?

Originally posted on Eponymous :


I wanted to find out how many of our 163 grammar schools give priority to disadvantaged pupils in their admissions arrangements for academic year 2016/17, and by what means.

This analysis was prompted by a comment made by Secretary of State Nicky Morgan during the Commons debate on her statement of 19 October 2015. The statement explained her decision to approve the expansion of the Weald of Kent Grammar School to a new site in Sevenoaks.

She said:

‘The admissions code, which was changed by this Government, specifically allows grammar schools to give priority to children who are eligible for the pupil premium in their admission arrangements. Half of the grammar school sector has introduced, or intends to consult on adopting, that admissions priority, and I would like more of them to go further.’ (Hansard 19 October 2015, Column 683)

How many schools have actually included such a…

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Measuring primary attainment and progress

Originally posted on Eponymous :


This is an exploratory discussion document. I wrote it to try to understand more clearly the current situation. I am open to persuasion and will take on board evidence-based amendments.


The transition from old to new

The original policy design for levels-based assessment was simple and elegant. This helped ensure its longevity throughout a period of constant policy churn. (I was present when it was first described at a meeting of TGAT over 28 years ago)

But it was eventually overloaded by a bolt-on superstructure of short-term progress targets. These, combined with the pressures of high-stakes accountability, brought about the problems delineated by the Commission on assessment without levels.

But the downside to the removal of levels, entirely ignored by the Commission, is too readily swept aside.

There were substantial advantages, not least for parents, in having a single national system applied consistently throughout their children’s education…

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New Transition Matrices Reveal Worrying Excellence Gaps

Originally posted on Eponymous :


Having spent several years bewailing the limited availability of national data on excellence gaps, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that RAISEOnline has just published transition matrices showing the progress made by disadvantaged learners from KS2 to KS4.

It is regrettable that this data has been released only at the point when an entirely new assessment regime is about to be introduced, but better late than never.

It might provide a baseline of sorts against which to judge the future size of excellence gaps – and how effectively they are identified and reported – once the new assessment measures are in place.

You probably need reminding of my working definition of excellence gaps in an English context:

‘The difference between the percentage of disadvantaged learners who reach a specified age- or stage-related threshold of high achievement – or who secure the requisite progress between two such thresholds – and…

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FSM admissions to Oxbridge STILL showing no improvement

Originally posted on Eponymous :


Today (20 October 2015) saw the publication of the latest DfE destinations data.

It was contained in SFR40/2015: Provisional destinations of key stage 4 and key stage 5 students in state-funded institutions, 2013/14.

I will not repeat again the detailed description of this data or the provisos attached. The essential information is set out at the beginning of this earlier post. A more exhaustive treatment is provided in the Technical Note published alongside today’s SFR.

Unusually, the main text of the SFR draws attention to some bad news about the proportion of FSM-eligible students progressing to selective higher education:

‘The gap between the percentage of free school meals eligible students going to the top third higher education institutions and all other students has widened from 7 to 9 percentage points between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

For Russell Group institutions the gap has widened from 6 to 7 percentage…

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If not grammar schools, what?

Originally posted on Eponymous :


This week’s media debate about the value of grammar schools as instruments of social mobility has been profoundly depressing.

For the record, all the research evidence shows that the historical impact of selective education on social mobility has been negligible.

The proportion of disadvantaged learners currently admitted to grammar schools remains desperately low.

As of January 2013:

  • 41% of grammar schools had FSM admission rates of 2% or lower; only three had rates above 10%.
  • 20% of grammar schools had 10 or fewer FSM-eligible students in their GCSE cohorts from 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined; only 10% had 40 or more FSM students taking GCSEs in these three years.

Recent efforts to improve the ratio of disadvantaged to advantaged admissions have been confined to a minority of grammar schools.

Admissions reform is strictly limited, for fear of upsetting the sharp-elbowed middle classes. Surreptitious support offered by the Coalition…

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More About Mastery, Depth and High Attainers

Originally posted on Eponymous :

I am increasingly concerned about NCETM’s notion that ‘stretch and challenge’ should always involve studying the same material in greater depth.

This is becoming increasingly pervasive and resulting in widespread confusion, amongst teachers as well as parents. For example see this Mumsnet thread and this sample of recent Tweets


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Can we expect a rocket boost for fair access?

Originally posted on Eponymous :


This post considers whether the forthcoming Higher Education Green Paper will propose radical reform to bring about fair access to universities.


The runes first written

The Conservative Government aspires to widen participation and improve fair access.

4179063482_e8184e27a1_z Courtesy of David Blackwell

There was no explicit commitment in the Conservative election manifesto but, one week before the May 2015 General Election, a Tory press release announced that:

‘Underlining a future Conservative government’s commitment to young people, the Prime Minister will set out a goal that by 2020, disadvantaged young people will be twice as likely to enter higher education than under Labour.’

On 1 July 2015, Jo Johnson, the newly-appointed Minister of State for Universities and Science both reaffirmed and clarified this statement:

‘The Prime Minister has set an ambitious goal to double the proportion of those from disadvantaged backgrounds progressing into higher education by 2020 (compared with 2009).’

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This blog is now terminated

There will be no further posts on this blog, though I will leave it available for reference purposes, at least for the time being.

I have begun a new blog here which addresses a much wider range of interests.

I will occasionally publish short commentaries on education, dealing exclusively with high attainment and related issues, but only when the mood takes me.

As of end October 2015, I have published: