Where is New Zealand’s Excellence Gap? – Part 2


This is Part 2 of a Post for the Blog Tour associated with New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week 2012. If you missed Part 1 you can find it here


I have set aside until now any discussion of the nature and application of deciles so as not to confuse the treatment of the substantive issue.

For, if it wasn’t bad enough to take New Zealand to task for apparently using ethnic background as a proxy for socio-economic disadvantage, I feel there is also some cause for concern in its tendency to use a school-level measure of disadvantage as a proxy for individual disadvantage.

The two issues are related, in that they potentially create a ‘double whammy’ situation for disadvantaged European/Pakeha learners who have the misfortune to attend a relatively advantaged school.


What are Deciles?

But non-Kiwi readers will first require an explanation of how deciles are derived and how they work.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education explains that:

‘A decile indicates the extent to which a school draws its students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 10 schools are the 10% of schools with the lowest proportion of these students.’

It follows that deciles are not always a reliable measure of the individual socio-economic backgrounds of pupils in a school. A significant minority of the pupils at a low decile school may be relatively advantaged and vice versa.

Deciles are calculated following each 5-yearly New Zealand Census, though schools can apply for a review betweentimes. The calculation is based on the smallest census areas (known as ‘meshblocks’) in which a school’s students live.

It is based on five percentages:

  • households with adjusted income in the lowest 20% nationally;
  • employed parents in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations;
  • crowded households (ie less than one bedroom per couple, per single person aged 10 or over, or per pair of children aged under 10);
  • parents with no school or tertiary qualifications and
  • parents who directly received income support from specified sources.

These five factors are weighted to reflect the number of students per meshblock, so those housing more students will have a relatively greater impact on the school decile.

Schools are placed in rank order for each of the five factors, receiving a score for each. The five scores are totalled and the total scores are used to divide schools into the 10 deciles, each containing the same number of schools. No further weighting is applied.

The published Schools Directory contains the decile alongside each entry, so parents are fully aware of a school’s decile and that knowledge may influence their admissions preferences.

The Ministry’s guidance on applying for a change of decile notes:

‘In the past, boards and principals seeking a review have provided information on such things as rurality, fluid rolls, the incidence of single parent families or students with special needs. While such matters certainly impose organisational problems on a school, they are not factors that are used to determine the decile.

The decile does not indicate the “average” socio-economic status of families that contribute to the school roll, but focuses on five specific factors that have been shown to affect academic achievement.’

Deciles are used to determine the funding received by a school. Indeed, several different funding elements are allocated on this basis:

  • Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) (deciles 1-9)
  • Special Education Grant (SEG) (deciles 1-10)
  • Careers Information Grant (CIG) (deciles 1-10)
  • Kura Kaupapa Māori Transport (deciles 1-10)
  • Priority Teacher Supply Allowance (PTSA) (deciles 1-2)
  • National Relocation Grant (NRG) (deciles 1-4)
  • Decile Discretionary Funding for Principals (deciles 1-4)
  • Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) Learning Support Funding (deciles 1-10)
  • RTLBs for years 11-13 (deciles 1-10)
  • School Property Financial Assistance scheme (deciles 1-10)
  • Study Support Centres (deciles 1-3)
  • Social Workers in Schools (deciles 1-5)
  • District Truancy Service (deciles 1-10)

Some sources suggest that deciles impact on some 15% of schools’ operational funding overall, but the first element in the list above seem by far the most significant for the purposes of this post.

Lakeside courtesy of Chris Gin

Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement

Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) is:

‘a resource provided to assist boards of decile 1–9 schools to lower barriers to learning faced by students from low socio-economic communities. It is calculated and funded on a per pupil, decile related basis’

So, whereas a significant proportion of school funding is dependent on school decile, the TFEA element of that funding is derived on a per capita basis. The text is ambiguous but, as far as I can establish, this sum is payable for every student on the school roll, rather than only for students below a specified personal threshold of disadvantage.

If so, there will be an inevitable element of deadweight in lower decile schools and a degree of rough justice in higher decile schools, because that is the way a proxy operates.

The current rates for TFEA are set out below, with figures provided inclusive and exclusive of Goods and Services Tax.

As one can see, the rate varies significantly according to school decile. The highest rate for decile 1 schools is approaching 50% more than the highest rate for decile 2 and 3 times as much as the highest rate for decile 3.

For decile 5 and below, the sums available are relatively insignificant and, for the highest decile, they disappear entirely.

The History of Deciles and TFEA

There is useful background about the development of this system in a December 2003 Inquiry into decile funding by the Education and Science Committee of the New Zealand House of Representatives

TFEA was first introduced in 1995 but, until 1997, it was awarded only to low decile schools. It was the first tranche of funding awarded using the decile system – all the other elements above have been added subsequently.

The 18 funding steps in the TFEA system were already present at the time of the inquiry. (The three different rates for schools in each of deciles 1-4 are presumably calculated by dividing each ranked decile into three equal parts, but the text does not state this.)

When the Inquiry was held in 2003, deciles were derived from six indicators rather than five, the sixth being the proportion of students of Maori or Pacific Islands origin within the meshblock.

Some of the Inquiry’s respondents were reportedly critical of this:

‘Some contended that as Maori and Pacific Island families are over-represented in statistics reflecting socio-economic disadvantage, there may be a ‘double counting’ of disadvantaged minority groups, thus skewing the decile rankings of some areas.’

 In other words, because Maori and Pasifika were already over-represented in the other five ethnically-neutral elements of the calculation, there was a risk that areas with a significant Maori/Pasifika population would benefit disproportionately.

Some of the Inquiry’s members felt this:

 ‘creates an incentive for schools to push the boundaries regarding the proportion of Maori and Pacific Island students on their roll’

though why that should be a bad thing is never explained.

Such was the sensitivity of any adjustment that it was referred to a much wider review of targeted programmes. The Minister responsible declared that:

‘The objective of the review is to give ministers and the public assurance that policy is being developed on the basis of need, not on the basis of race’

showing that the Government of the time was thoroughly alert to the risk that I have been discussing in this post.

But the report of the first results makes it clear that the review did not examine the full range of education policy. The Minister says:

‘The Labour-led government firmly believes in giving everyone a fair go. Unlike the National party, we are committed to lifting Maori and Pacific Island job prospects, educational achievement and health.

We will continue to use targeted programmes and policies for specific ethnic groups that prove effective at addressing proven needs, just as we do for other groups of New Zealanders who need specific help, such as the elderly or those in rural communities.

These reviews have confirmed that for most of these programmes, targeting by ethnicity is appropriate, as there is good evidence that this sort of targeting is addressing need effectively. Because of this these programmes will not be changed.

In fact, the review concludes that change is required in only a single area – the calculation of deciles.

Even so, the Minister feels it necessary to announce additional targeted support to sweeten the pill:

There is increasing evidence and research that suggests that lifting educational achievement for Maori and Pasifika students is better done through tailored programmes that address certain factors – such as giving teachers the support and the skills to teach students from different backgrounds who have different needs.

We are investing in these sorts of programmes already. As well, I am announcing today two new initiatives, worth $11.5 million over three years, that will support more effective teaching. The first will develop, pilot and establish a national approach to training educators who teach teachers. The second will apply recent research findings about what works in the classrooms for Maori and Pasifika students to ten pilot studies involving teachers in clusters of schools.’

The first part of this quotation explains why there has been continuing emphasis on targeted support for Maori and Pasifika learners under successive Governments.

But it begs the question whether other disadvantaged students would not benefit from similar tailored programmes, rather than relying principally on the distribution of weighted funding to low decile schools.

Meanwhile, the Inquiry into decile funding also recommended that the Ministry of Education should undertake research into the effectiveness of TFEA in improving the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students and disseminate best practice guidance to schools (and schools should also account for how they spend this resources):

 ‘Due to the absence of research in this area, we have been unable to determine how effective the Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement scheme is at improving the outcomes of students who face barriers to learning due to their socio-economic status. We believe that such research is important to ensure that decile-based funding is achieving its stated goals.’

I have not been able to track down any research commissioned in response to this recommendation.

In a submission to the Inquiry the New Zealand Council for Educational Research argues that:

Closing the overall gap in student achievement levels in relation to schools serving different socioeconomic communities is a somewhat different purpose from that of improving the learning outcomes for individual low-achieving students, in whichever decile school they attend. There is overlap between these two, which is evident in some of the views expressed by those in high decile schools concerned about meeting the needs of their lower-performing students….

Trying to assess individual student learning needs and provide funding accordingly on an individual basis would prove to be enormously expensive. The testing required would withdraw money from the public funding available which many in the sector already regard as inadequate for the higher expectations we now have that every student will achieve a level of educational performance which will be satisfying, and provide a useful basis for meaningful employment and social participation.

If such a system were used only for those students thought to face additional learning barriers, and based on school applications, then it would face the same problems of lack of fairness and inconsistency that were apparent in the system replaced by the decile rankings, and would not reach all those who might need it.

Individual vouchers would prove costly and very difficult to administer, and put school principals under great pressure, as the experience of principals with parental expectations related to the average per student funding of the ORRS scheme used in special education shows (Wylie 2000). Nor have individual vouchers for students proved to make a difference for student learning… What does make a difference is to build on what we know to ensure teachers are well equipped with the knowledge, curriculum and assessment resources, and time to work with individual students, and to work together to share knowledge of individual students, and to improve their practice.’

This suggestion that individual low-achieving students should be targeted rather misses the point. Isn’t the first question to address why individual disadvantaged students should not be targeted in this manner?

The assumption that the only solution lies in vouchers is also misplaced, as the English Government’s decision to adopt a Pupil Premium demonstrates. As far as I can see, there is fundamentally no reason why TFEA could not be awarded to schools on the basis of individual student need. All that would be required is a robust definition of need which could be applied to all learners.


Te Anau courtesy of Stuck in Customs

Distribution of pupils by ethnic background according to School Decile

There is no doubt that pupils from different ethnic background are very differently distributed within high and low decile schools.

The July 2011 data gives the following rounded percentages (the totals also include learners from other backgrounds):

European/Pakeha Maori Pasifika Total
Deciles 1-3 8 44 60 22
Deciles 8-10 50 16 12 39

It is quite clear that funding and policies targeted at low decile schools will disproportionately benefit learners from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to track down any data showing the distribution of economically disadvantaged learners between schools in different deciles. We cannot see the extent to which learners’ personal background reflects the decile of the institution that they attend.

There is bound to be significant overlap between these two given the way New Zealand school admissions operate and how deciles are calculated, but the match will only be approximate – there will be a minority of individually disadvantaged learners attending schools above decile 3 and, similarly, advantaged leaners attending schools below decile 8.

So we have a second proxy in play that will tend to put disadvantaged learners from European/Pakeha backgrounds who have the misfortune to attend mid and high decile schools further towards the back of the queue.

If TFEA funding was tied explicitly to meeting the needs of the disadvantaged pupils who attract it – which is not strictly the case with the Pupil Premium in England – a significant proportion of the deadweight in the current allocation could be eradicated.

It would also help ensure that gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds were equal beneficiaries, since there is otherwise a risk that the funding is tied almost exclusively to eradicating New Zealand’s ‘long tail of underachievement’ at the lower end of the attainment spectrum.

The Range at Night courtesy of Stuck in Customs


What do we know about New Zealand’s Disadvantaged Gifted Learners?

As far as I can discover online, relatively little is known about the size and composition of New Zealand’s population of disadvantaged gifted learners.

New Zealand’s guidance does not rely on a fixed percentage definition of gifted learners, pointing out that different approaches to identification can result in very different outcomes – the variance is from 1-15% of the school population, assuming that the guidance is rigorously observed in every single school.

If we estimate, for the sake of illustration, a mid-point of around 8% then, on the assumption that giftedness is evenly distributed in the school population – and on the basis of 2011 school rolls – New Zealand’s national gifted and talented population would include some 61,000 gifted and talented learners all told.

  • Overall, over 33,000 European/Pakeha learners will be gifted and talented, approaching 14,000 learners from a Maori background and around 6,000 from a Pasifika background
  •  About 13,400 of those will be attending disadvantaged decile 1-3 schools. Over 6,000 of them will be from a Maori background, approaching 3,600 from a Pasifika background and around 2,600 of them European/Pakeha.

While there is apparently no hard data, we do know – from the sources I have already quoted – that pupils from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds and from disadvantaged backgrounds (whether or not represented by the proxy of low decile schools) are heavily under-represented.

That seems fairly typical of gifted and talented populations worldwide.

Another conclusion we might reasonably draw is that, with approximately this number of disadvantaged gifted and talented learners concentrated in a relatively small land mass, it ought to be feasible to design a single personalised intervention programme to support them all, funding permitting of course…

How Might We Learn More?

Although there are significant political and professional hurdles to overcome, most of the elements are seemingly in place to secure useful national data about New Zealand’s gifted disadvantaged learners.

New Zealand’s National Administration Guidelines require school boards to:

‘on the basis of good quality assessment information, identify students and groups of students:

i.        who are not achieving;
ii.        who are at risk of not achieving;
iii.        who have special needs (including gifted and talented students)’

Such groups must include Maori students by virtue of a separate requirement:

‘in consultation with the school’s Māori community, develop and make known to the school’s community policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students’

There are no other specific requirements relating to the ethnic or socio-economic composition of these groups.

However, where a school has students enrolled in Years 1-8, the board is required, from 2011, to use New Zealand’s National Standards to:

‘Report in the board’s annual report on:

              i.     the numbers and proportions of students at, above, below or well below the standards, including by Māori, Pasifika and by gender (where this does not breach an individual’s privacy); and

ii.     how students are progressing against the standards as well as how they are achieving.’

The New Zealand Government seems to have decided in favour of the public dissemination of such data, despite professional fears about the creation of school league tables and their capacity to mislead the public

The Ministry of Education is reportedly compiling a report based on the first round of data, to be published in September. The Prime Minister has argued that there is parental demand for such data, which will in any case be made available by the media, who can access it under the Official Information Act.

The twin requirements on school boards to identify gifted and talented learners and report achievement against the standards provides a mechanism which could potentially be used to collect data about the incidence of gifted and talented learners, broken down by ethnicity and gender, and their performance (recognising the limitations of the four-level scale deployed within the standards for this purpose).

Such data would certainly be analysed by school decile – so using the familiar proxy for personal disadvantage – which would permit the derivation of approximate data about the numbers and distribution of gifted disadvantaged learners, though with the shortcomings we have identified above.

If the Government were also prepared to specify that the data collection should include disadvantaged learners identified on the basis of a personal measure of disadvantage, that would of course be far preferable.

Meanwhile, the lack of national data collection on this basis would not prevent the collection of sample data by the gifted education community from schools willing to supply it.

Whakapapa River courtesy of ed37

How Might New Zealand’s Gifted Disadvantaged Learners Be Supported?

What follows is a personal perspective from a distance of several thousand miles – only New Zealand’s gifted educators will know whether these ideas make sense in their particular national context, but here goes anyway!

In researching this post, I have come across several interesting initiatives that were new to me, including the University of Auckland’s Starpath Project and  the First Foundation which seem commendably focused on disadvantage regardless of the ethnic background of the disadvantaged young people they are supporting (though in both cases, school decile seems to be an integral part of the identification process).

A map of such existing provision would help to identify the gaps that need to be filled, and inform any intention to draw existing provision into a single framework servicing the entire gifted disadvantaged population.

Other possibilities include:

  • Ensuring that national and school policy statements explicitly recognise the complex relationship between ethnic background, disadvantage and several other key variables such as gender, special educational need, even month of birth.
  •  Making clear the downside of a proxy-driven approach – specifically that some key parts of the disadvantaged gifted population are overlooked while other, relatively less disadvantaged learners will benefit in their place.
  •  Introducing strategies to encourage schools to identify gifted and talented learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, guidance could promote the idea that schools’ gifted and talented populations should broadly reflect their intake. Schools’ decisions could be audited, perhaps on a sample basis. Effective school level strategies could be developed and disseminated nationally;
  •  Developing greater understanding of how disadvantage impacts on gifted learners, including those from non-Maori and non-Pasifika backgrounds. Is there a distinct poor European/Pakeha population whose needs are not being met? Do Asian learners from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to overcome these more readily, as is the case with some Asian populations in England? If so, what can be learned from that?
  •  Developing personalised solutions that address the very different causes of disadvantage faced by gifted learners, ensuring that support for Maori/Pasifika dimensions is proportionate and part of a sophisticated toolkit of strategies available to schools. These could be targeted on the basis of a needs analysis process, as embodied in the recently published questionnaire)
  •  Developing guidelines for the providers of generic non-targeted out of school programmes to ensure that they too provide support for a population that  is broadly representative by gender, ethnic background and other such variables, rather than disproportionately serving one group or another.
  •  Monitoring and evaluating the impact of this strategy and progress towards specified outcomes, tied explicitly to reducing the excellence gap.

For what it’s worth, current interest in charter schools seems largely irrelevant to this discussion because the terms of reference are explicit that such schools will not be selective, so they will not be able to prioritise disadvantaged gifted learners in their admission arrangements.

Whereas in England free schools for students aged 16-19 are not caught by the Government’s moratorium on new selective schools, there doesn’t seem to be a similar escape clause in New Zealand. So charter school pilots might serve at best as models and laboratories for disadvantaged learners of all abilities.

Assuming, of course, that they will really serve disadvantaged learners, rather than acting as a magnet for the middle classes.

The Prospects Are Good

There is evidence to suggest that new Zealand’s disadvantaged gifted learners are already relatively well-placed.

Another PISA publication called ‘Against the Odds: Disadvantaged Students Who Succeed in School’ uses PISA 2006 science results to inform an analysis of resilient students from disadvantaged backgrounds who score highly on the PISA assessment.

The report uses two definitions of resilience:

  • A within-country definition which looks at those students who fall within the bottom third of their country’s distribution by socio-economic background but who nevertheless score within the top third of PISA entrants in that country;
  •  An across-country definition which looks at students who, as above, fall within the bottom third of their national distribution by socio-economic background but who performed in the top third of all PISA entrants after controlling for socio-economic background.

New Zealand is one of a handful of countries in which the proportion of such students is close to 50%. These resilient students ‘are more motivated, more engaged and more self-confident than their disadvantaged low-achieving peers’.

This finding is supported in domestic studies by Nadine Ballam:

‘Socioeconomic adversity was found to be more intrinsically valuable than damaging in terms of talent development and self-identity. This challenges stereotypic perceptions that may be commonly held about individuals who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. It also broadens the picture of what has traditionally been suggested to be characteristic of people living in low socioeconomic situations. Participants reported that drive and determination, a strong work ethic, and an appreciation for things that may be less significant to more financially advantaged young people were the most intrinsically beneficial elements of their financial constraints. While many participants also experienced some negative impacts related to their socioeconomic circumstances, it appeared that their determination to change their situations tended to counteract any long lasting influence that these effects may have had…

Further findings from this study revealed that physical assistance provided in the form of tangible resources and opportunities actually contributed to the participants’ overall sense of wellbeing. However, it could well be that more focus is also required on the intrinsic aspects, and on supporting and empowering these young people to develop a strong and secure sense of their own identity, whatever this may mean for the individual within the context of their challenging situations.’

For many disadvantaged young people, that identity will include belonging the Maori or Pasifika communities, but for others it will not.

Last Words

This post has explored a perceived tendency for New Zealand to use ethnic proxies for personal educational disadvantage rather than relying on a more targeted measure.

It has:

  • Examined how this is evidenced in key documents and considered whether the available data supports or contradicts the tendency.
  • Suggested that the pre-eminent use of deciles to target funding and support compounds the problem.
  • Pointed out the implications for gifted disadvantaged learners and for the country’s efforts to tackle the excellence gap between the attainment of its advantaged and disadvantaged gifted learners.
  • Cautiously proposed some starting points for further information-gathering about the size and distribution of New Zealand’s gifted disadvantaged learners and for designing a coherent response to their needs.

The result is a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces still missing.

When I do finally visit New Zealand I hope to find out whether the adoption of Maori and Pasifika background as a proxy for disadvantage is a reality.

If so, is it a ‘truth that dare not speak its name’ or an openly acknowledged accommodation that reflects the historical guilt of one community and the historical suffering of two more?



June 2012

Where is New Zealand’s Excellence Gap? – Part 1

This post is my contribution to the Blog Tour for New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week 2012. It asks:

  • Whether New Zealand is too ready to adopt proxies for educational disadvantage and
  • If that hinders its capacity to narrow the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged learners, especially the ‘excellence gap’ between gifted learners from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is written with half an eye to the New Zealand audience, while the other half is trained on a global readership. The former may find I am telling them too many things they already know; the latter may feel that some essential background material is lacking. I have tried to steer a middle way.

I present this analysis with all due humility – as appropriate for a non-Kiwi who has never once visited New Zealand and is relying exclusively on material available online – but in the genuine hope that it will stimulate further discussion and debate.

I have divided the text into two parts on an entirely arbitrary basis, simply because it is too long to form a single post.

Reflections on Last Year’s Post

In 2011 my contribution to the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week (NZGAW) Blog Tour was a two-part analysis – here and here –  of how vouchers could be applied to gifted education, featuring the proposals in Step Change: Success the Only Option.

As we all know, education vouchers are a controversial market-based education reform, increasingly prevalent in the United States but with a relatively limited foothold elsewhere. They are as yet almost entirely unknown in gifted education.

I am afraid I was rather dismissive of the politically-inspired proposals within ‘Step Change’, though I did not dismiss outright the potential of voucher schemes to support gifted education. Despite the shortcomings of the Step Change scheme, its originators deserve some credit for framing the suggestion in the first place.

I thought my post was rather provocative, but it raised barely a whimper.

Vouchers may excite policy wonks but they are some distance away from the everyday concerns of busy educators. As far as New Zealand colleagues were concerned,  they were little more than a theoretical irrelevance, because the Step Change proposals had been ditched, publicly and unceremoniously, by the time I published my post.

In Search of a Topic for 2012

Charter schools are the latest ‘big idea’ imported into New Zealand, currently receiving consideration by a dedicated working group. At this early stage it is hard to know whether the report it will produce in due course is destined for the same treatment as ‘Step Change’, though that is a distinct possibility.

I could have written about charter schools but, in reflecting on them as a possible topic, I found myself distracted by a much more fundamental, sensitive and controversial question to which I did not have the answer.

Unlike vouchers – and probably charter schools too – it goes to the very heart of New Zealand’s educational policy and practice, and is directly relevant to how New Zealand policy makers and practitioners envision and implement gifted education.

Quite rightly in my view, New Zealand places very strong emphasis on a socially and culturally inclusive approach to education, and gifted education is no exception. It is rightly expected that gifted learners will be drawn from across society, including from Maori, Pasifika and disadvantaged backgrounds.

But, although this expectation is expressed in terms of ethnicity and disadvantage, it often seems – at least from this distance – that the issue is being addressed almost entirely in terms of ethnicity.

It seems that there is, quite rightly, a big investment in meeting the needs of Maori and Pasifika learners, including gifted learners, much of it on the basis that belonging to those cultures is synonymous with disadvantage.

Now I perfectly understand that learners from those backgrounds are heavily and disproportionately represented amongst the socio-economically disadvantaged population in New Zealand.

But I am also sure that there is a minority of relatively advantaged Maori and Pasifika learners and, perhaps more to the point, a significant number of socio-economically disadvantaged learners who are not from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds.

I wondered whether this appearance is reflected in reality and, if so, why New Zealanders have reached a position where Maori and Pasifika cultural backgrounds have become an imperfect proxy for socio-economic disadvantage.

I was curious if, as a consequence, poor learners from other backgrounds are relatively neglected, perhaps even overlooked. I wondered whether that circumstance might apply equally to gifted education.

This topic seems almost taboo in New Zealand educational circles. I am sure that many readers will feel I am trespassing into territory I do not understand – and clumping around in hobnailed boots where angels fear to tread.

It may be that the evidence overall does not support this analysis, in which case I am more than ready to adjust it accordingly. But I feel the need to pose the questions nevertheless.

A Drive to Remember courtesy of WanderingTheWorld

 New Zealand’s Educational Policy and Priorities

To get a grasp on how national educational priorities are articulated within Government, I began with the Ministry of Education’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister (December 2011).

The Executive Summary illustrates beautifully the disparity between expectation and implementation I outlined above.

The opening paragraph expresses the overarching aim thus (the emphasis is mine):

‘Our over-riding goal is a world-leading education system that equips all learners with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st Century. Although New Zealand’s education system has many strengths, with systematic under-achievement for Maori, Pasifika and other learners from poorer backgrounds, we are a considerable way from achieving that goal. New Zealand’s highest achieving learners compare with the best in the world, but those groups least well served by New Zealand’s education system achieve outcomes comparable with the lowest performing OECD countries.  The social consequences of this are all too clear. The economic consequences are equally unacceptable.’

This text might be criticised because it implies that Maori, Pasifika and poor learners on one hand and high achievers on the other are two mutually exclusive populations but, that aside, it states New Zealand’s fundamental educational problem with admirable clarity.

But, having stated the problem in this manner, the next few paragraphs make no further reference to those ‘other learners from poorer backgrounds’, implying that there is no policy solution targeted specifically at them.

Instead, the issue is addressed entirely in terms of ethnic background:

‘The attainment gaps between learners of different ethnicities are stubborn and in danger of being viewed as inevitable. They are not…

the issue of Maori and Pasifika underachievement is pervasive and needs to be addressed in every setting, and in schools of every decile…

….Educational achievement for all is the single most important issue facing New Zealand education and in order to achieve a step change in outcomes for Maori and Pasifika we need to be relentless in our focus on good education outcomes for every single child and adult learner.  We need to “stress test” all of our current policy settings, including funding mechanisms, programmes and interventions and ask if they are doing all they can to address this fundamental weakness in New Zealand’s education system.’

The original point about the distribution of disadvantage is reinforced later in the Briefing, within an analysis of performance against key indicators by ethnic group:

‘Despite some overall improvements, the gap between our high performing and low performing students remains one of the widest in the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These low performing students are likely to be Maori or Pasifika and/or from low socioeconomic communities.

Disparities in education appear early and persist throughout learning. The Table below highlights some of this participation and achievement disparity between Maori, Pasifika and non-Maori/Pasifika…Although there is a relationship between socio-economic status, ethnicity and achievement, these are not pre-determinants for success or failure. There is a spread of achievement within these groups.’

We will return to the Table later. For now the critical point is the recognition of a complex relationship between ethnicity, socio-economic disadvantage and achievement.

Given that understanding, one might expect the next stage of the argument to be insistence on a personalised approach, designed to meet the very different needs of disadvantaged learners, who are affected in complex ways by the interaction of these and several other variables.

Instead, we are told that that a key challenge has to be addressed:

We must support Maori, Pasifika and students with special needs to realise their inherent potential to achieve educational success.   This goal requires giving full effect to the Government’s strategies for these groups: Ka Hikitia: Managing for Success, the Pasifika Education Plan and Success for All – Every School, Every Child.’

Special needs makes it into the equation, but what has happened to those from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the misfortune to sit outside the Maori and Pasifika communities?

This is by no means an isolated example. The same elision features in the Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2012-17 which again identifies four priority groups:

Improving education outcomes for Maori learners, Pasifika learners, learners with special education needs and learners from low socio-economic backgrounds’

But when the ‘operating intentions’ are spelled out, we seek in vain for separate and specific reference to targeted support for the latter group:

‘We will improve education outcomes for our priority groups by focusing on the evidence of what works best. We will use policy, accountability and funding levers to maximise improvement for these learners. To make the system work, it is critical to have and use information that informs best practice and makes it possible to target support and resources effectively….

We will report regularly on the progress the system is making towards improving its performance for and with Māori learners, using Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success as the framework. We will implement a refreshed version, Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success 2013-2017, based on emerging research and evidence. This will further focus the Ministry’s activity and that of education providers to improve the education system for and with Māori.

As part of the refresh of Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success, specific targets will be set and communicated. These targets will address the Government’s priorities and will align with the Better Public Services result areas. Targets will be set to increase the proportion of:

    • Māori children participating in early childhood education
    • Māori learners with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification
    • Māori 25- to 34-years-old, with a qualification at level 4 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework…

…We will implement a new, updated Pasifika Education Plan for 2013-2017, which will support the education system to perform better for Pasifika learners, and to focus on sustainable and continuous improvement. The plan will set ambitious targets to increase Pasifika participation in early childhood education and the percentage of Pasifika learners with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification, aligning with the Better Public Services result areas.

Setting, and then achieving, the goals and targets of the plan will be a joint project between the Ministry and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. We will work with education agencies to ensure their plans for increasing Pasifika learners’ achievement align with the Pasifika Education Plan….

…We will continue to implement Success for All – Every School, Every Child to ensure all learners with special education needs are able to learn and succeed in the education setting of their choice.

The Government has set a performance target of 80% of schools demonstrating inclusive practice of learners with special education needs by the end of 2014, with the remaining 20% demonstrating good progress. No schools should be doing a poor job of providing an inclusive learning environment for these learners.’

Are we to conclude that, for learners from low socio-economic backgrounds who fall outside the other ‘target groups’, there is no need for targeted intervention? If so, what is the rationale for this decision and where is the evidence presented?

The Remarkables courtesy of WanderingTheWorld

The Elision is Repeated in NZ Gifted Education Documents

Some of the key reference documents for New Zealand’s gifted educators perform exactly the same trick, though this is not universally true. The older documents appear more inclusive, perhaps suggesting that the socio-economically disadvantaged did not disappear from view until midway through the last decade.

The Ministry of Education’s publication: Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting their needs in NZ Schools (2000) notes that:

‘New Zealand is a multicultural society with a wide range of ethnic groups.  The concept of giftedness and talent that belongs to a particular cultural group is shaped by its beliefs, values, attitudes, and customs. The concept varies from culture to culture. It also varies over time.

It is important that each school incorporates relevant cultural values into its concept of giftedness and talent. These values will also influence procedures used for identifying students from different cultural groups and for providing relevant programmes. Culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged students are grossly under-represented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Schools must make a special effort to identify talented students from these groups.’

It moves on to consider identification issues for each of a series of vulnerable groups and offers specific guidance on identifying disadvantaged gifted learners:

‘Students from Low Socio-economic Backgrounds

Disadvantaged gifted and talented students (or gifted and talented students from low socio-economic backgrounds) are difficult to identify and are seriously underrepresented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Since the performance of these students generally declines the longer they are at school (by comparison with students from more advantaged backgrounds), it is critically important to identify them as early as possible. Attention should focus on early childhood education and on the junior school.

Traditional identification methods tend to be ineffective with this group of students. Standardised tests of achievement and intelligence may penalise students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Non-verbal tests of general ability, such as the Standard Progressive Matrices, are more culturally fair although they do not predict academic performance as well as some tests.

The accuracy of teacher identification can be increased with the use of checklists designed specifically for identifying disadvantaged gifted students. Peer nominations have proved promising, particularly where peers have identifi ed areas of special ability outside the classroom, such as art, music, sport, and leadership. Of particular value, however, has been the responsive learning environment approach for this group of students. When coupled with early identification and intervention, it is usually the most effective method.’

But, moving ahead to 2008, while the ERO Report on ‘Schools’ Provision for Gifted and Talented Students’ follows the earlier Ministry publication in advocating identification processes that:

‘Identify special groups, including Maori, students from other cultures/ethnicities,            students with learning difficulties     or disabilities, underachievers, and those from low socio-economic backgrounds’,

when it comes to reporting on and exemplifying effective practice, the latter group simply vanishes.

  • In establishing indicators of good practice for defining and identifying giftedness, ERO sought evidence that Maori and multicultural concepts were incorporated and that students identified ‘reflected the diversity of the school’s population’.
  • Only 5% of schools could demonstrate a ‘highly inclusive and appropriate’ approach on these terms, with a further 40% deemed ‘inclusive and appropriate’. Practice in the remaining 55% of schools therefore fell short of this expectation.
  • The ensuing discussion of good practice references the incorporation ‘of Maori or multicultural concepts of giftedness and talents’ in schools’ definitions (the majority of schools had not demonstrated this).
  • Just 15% of schools included Maori theories and knowledge in their identification process and even fewer – 12% – incorporated ‘multi-culturally appropriate methods’.
  • ‘Identified gifted and talented students reflected the diversity of the school’s population at just under half the schools. This diversity included ethnicity, year levels, gender, and curriculum areas’.

Socio-economic factors are neither explicitly identified in ERO’s template of effective practice, nor referenced explicitly in the practice they surveyed. There is a clear problem in respect of Maori and multicultural representation, but the issue of socio-economic representation is entirely invisible.

The only reference to disadvantage is in terms of schools:

‘In general, high decile schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than low decile schools. Similarly, urban schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than rural schools.’

which leads to a recommendation that the Ministry:

‘Provide targeted, high quality professional development to rural and low decile schools on providing for gifted and talented students’

We shall return later to the issue of support differentiated according to school decile, since that too is a questionable proxy for individual socio-economic disadvantage.

The current TKI Gifted site follows the 2000 publication up to a point:

‘Disadvantaged gifted and talented students (or gifted and talented students from low socio economic backgrounds) are difficult to identify and are seriously underrepresented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Since the performance of these students generally declines the longer they are at school (by comparison with students from more advantaged backgrounds), it is critically important to identify them as early as possible. Attention should focus on early childhood education and on the junior school.’

But it carries no links to programmes or resources that explicitly address this issue.

The letter signed by various New Zealand organisations and just issued to Members of Parliament references their commitment to a vision that:

‘All gifted and talented learners have equitable access to a differentiated and culturally responsive education. They are recognised, valued and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities.’

But there is no mention of disadvantaged gifted learners in the associated recommendations for practice, though there are references to research in ‘Pasifika concepts of giftedness and Maori perceptions and understanding of giftedness’.

This formulation cannot be criticised on the grounds that it focuses exclusively on Maori and Pasifika disadvantage. Rather, the emphasis on disadvantage is missing entirely – and only the need to account for different cultural perceptions remains.

There is a fascinating – and in my view telling – extract in The Extent, Nature and Effectiveness of Planned Approaches in New Zealand Schools for Providing for Gifted and Talented Students (2004).

It appears during a discussion of cultural issues, and specifically the representation of Maori and Pasifika students:

Socioeconomic factors. Keen (2001) hypothesized that the under-representation of Mäori and other Polynesian children that emerged in his research could be related to socioeconomic status rather than ethnicity. He notes that children of beneficiaries and unskilled labourers are also under-represented amongst the gifted and that “a disproportionate number of Mäori fall within these occupational categories” (p. 9). Similarly, Rata (2000) maintains that ethnicity has been credited with a greater influence than it actually exerts and that poverty is principally responsible for the educational and social inequalities that exist in New Zealand. However, Blair, Blair, and Madamba (1999) argue that it is virtually impossible to separate the potential effects of ethnicity and social class, while Bevan Brown (2002) and Glynn (cited in Bevan-Brown, 2002) maintain that it is a pointless exercise anyway as both these dimensions need be taken cognisance of in any educational provisions for poor Mäori students with special needs and abilities.’

It appears that, around the turn of the century, various experts were arguing that poverty rather than ethnicity was the real problem that required addressing in relation to under-representation in gifted populations.

Others regarded these two factors (quite wrongly in my view) as indistinguishable. Others saw the issue entirely through the lens of support for Maori learners, and so entirely missed the point.

Is this the real heart of the issue? Have the arguments advanced by Keen and Rata been set aside too readily in an effort to address the under-representation of Maori and Pasifika gifted learners?

Earlier in this Report we are told:

‘It is beyond the scope of this review of the literature to examine the recommendations for each potentially under-represented group of gifted and talented students; however, given the cultural diversity of New Zealand, issues related to the identification of minority cultures, and specifically, Mäori students, are of utmost importance. This is discussed in the section on cultural issues of this literature review.’

Is that the nub of the problem, and have we identified the turning point in New Zealand’s gifted education discourse?

Waterfalls at Midnight courtesy of Stuck in Customs

Is this Conflation of Ethnicity and Disadvantage Borne Out By the Data?

I want to turn to the statistical evidence about the extent of disadvantage in New Zealand, the composition of the disadvantaged population and the impact of disadvantage on educational outcomes.

The Extent of Disadvantage and Breakdown by Ethnic Background

I haven’t found it an easy matter to derive estimates of New Zealand children living in poverty broken down by ethnic background. Such statistics are less readily available than one might expect.

The 2010 Social Report defines low income as 60% of the 2007 household disposable income median, minus a 25% deduction to account for housing costs. The total is adjusted to reflect inflation so it remains level in real terms.

In the year ending in June 2009, 15% of New Zealand’s population had incomes below this threshold. However 22% of children aged 0-17 lived in households with incomes below this level.

The Report does not provide an analysis by ethnic background because sample sizes are said to be too small to provide a robust time series. I am no statistician but this seems a rather convenient and only partially accurate excuse.

The August 2011 publication ‘Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2010’ informs us that:

  • New Zealand does not have an official poverty measure – the Report uses the 60% of median household income and also a 50% median household income measure. It notes that both are regularly used by the EU and OECD
  • Of New Zealand’s total population of 4.26m (2010) some 500,000 to 750,000 are in poverty depending on which definition is adopted.
  • The childhood poverty rate is 22% to 25% depending on the definition adopted. Of the 1.07m dependent children under 18 in New Zealand (2010) between 170,000 and 270,000 were in households in poverty
  • Over the period 2007-2010, one in three Maori children one in four Pasifika children and one in six European/Pakeha children were living in poverty.

(For those readers outside New Zealand, ‘Pakeha’ is the Maori word for New Zealanders of European descent.)

The Social Report tells us that, at 2006, 72% of 0-17 year-olds were reported as of European or ‘Other’ origin (‘Other’ including ‘New Zealander’); 10% were reported as Asian, 24% as Maori and 12% as Pacific Peoples.) Some were obviously reported as belonging to more than one ethnic group.

Using the Statistics New Zealand Table Builder, one can derive estimated numbers of 0-14 year-olds and 15-19 year-olds by ethnic background in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

So the totals for 0-19 year-olds in 2006 are:

European or Other (including New Zealander) – 645,300 + 222,370 = 867,670

Maori – 215,300 + 65,980 = 281,280

Pacific peoples – 110,300 + 31,830 = 142,130

Asian – 83,600 + 35,840 = 119,440

Recognising the inaccuracy of the figures – one can roughly estimate an order of magnitude for the number of children from each background (other than Asian) living in poverty, by applying the proportions given in the Social Report:

European or Other (including New Zealander) – 16.67% of 281,280 = 46,890

Maori – 33% of 281,280 = 92,820

Pacific Peoples – 25% of 142,130 = 35,530

One can conclude that:

  • the total number of children living in poverty in New Zealand is relatively small in absolute terms, but constitutes a significant proportion of the total population of New Zealand children.
  • While only a minority of Maori and Pasifika children live in poverty…
  • In numerical terms, roughly twice as many Maori live in poverty as European/Pakeha but the latter significantly exceed the size of the Pasifika-in-poverty population.
  • Almost 50,000 young New Zealanders – well over 4% of the total national population of 0-19 year-olds – are neither Maori nor Pasifika yet live in poverty.

It is this group that seems most at risk of neglect when it comes to the delivery of education interventions, including gifted education interventions.

Data on Educational Performance by Ethnic and Socio-Economic Background 

Ethnic Background

As noted above, the Ministry of Education’s Brief to the Incoming Minister carries a Table showing several indicators of relatively poor Maori/Pasifika educational performance. This is reproduced below.

These figures tell a bleak story and they are reinforced elsewhere, though the data does not always give a consistent picture.

The Social Report 2010 provides evidence of performance by both ethnic background and disadvantage, but unfortunately no analysis of the relative impact of each of these two factors.

In relation to ethnic background:

  • The proportion of secondary school leavers who left school with an upper secondary qualification at NCEA Level 2 or above: in 2008, 71% of all school leavers achieved this benchmark. The comparable figures by ethnic background were: European – 75.2%; Maori – 50.4%, Pacific peoples – 62.9%.
  • The proportion of the population aged 15 and over enrolled at any time during the year in formal tertiary education leading to a recognised NZ qualification: during 2009, 426,000 young people achieved this benchmark (12.4%). The age standardised ethnic breakdown was: Maori – 17.1%; Pacific peoples – 12.1%; Europeans – 11.4%. The age standardised percentages for enrolment in bachelor’s degree courses was: Europeans – 3.5%; Maori – 3.1%; Pacific peoples – 3.0%. Females from Maori and Pacific backgrounds were more likely to be enrolled than males from European backgrounds.

Education Counts provides an analysis of the proportion of students leaving school with a university entrance standard in 2010. Overall, 42% of leavers achieved this measure. The ethnic breakdown was: Asian 65.3%, European/Pakeha 47.5%, Pasifika 25.8%, Maori 20%.

Data from PISA 2009 adds a further dimension. The NZ Ministry of Education publication ‘PISA2009: Our 21st Century Learners at Age 15’ provides useful evidence of the impact of ethnic background on achievement in literacy.

We learn that:

  • Overall, 16% of New Zealand’s students achieved level 5 and above on the PISA 2009 literacy test and 14% achieved below Level 2. The former is comparable with or exceeds the outcome in other high-scoring countries but the proportion of weaker readers is relatively larger than in most other high-scoring countries other than Australia and Japan.
  • 19% of Pakeha/European students achieved level 5 and above, as did 16% of Asian students. The comparable figures for Maori and Pasifika were 7% and 4% respectively. Conversely, the figures for those achieving below Level 2 were 11% Pakeha/European, 18% Asian, 30% Maori and 48% Pasifika.
  • Amongst the eight highest-performing countries, New Zealand had the widest gap between the scores of its top 5% and its bottom 5% of performers.

Punctuated Sky courtesy of Chris Gin

Socio-economic Disadvantage

The Social Report 2010 reveals  the proportion of secondary school leavers who left school with an upper secondary qualification at NCEA Level 2 or above in terms of school decile, showing that 57% of pupils at relatively disadvantaged schools in deciles 1-3 achieved this benchmark, compared with 67% at schools in deciles 4-7 and 82% at schools in deciles 8-10.

Education Counts similarly deploys school decile when considering the proportion of students leaving school with a university entrance standard in 2010. It notes:

‘A clear positive correlation between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers attending a university entrance standard…Students from schools in deciles 9 and 10 were three times more likely to leave school having achieved a university entrance standard than students from schools in deciles 1 and 2’


There is a large variation in the proportion of school leavers achieving a university entrance standard amongst schools within each decile.’

This is exemplified in the table below. If similar distinctions occur in the achievement of disadvantaged pupils in these schools, then the shortcomings of a decile-based approach are clear.

Interestingly, New Zealand’s domestic analysis of PISA 2009 does not examine variations according to socio-economic background, so we must turn to the original PISA 2009 Results (Volume 2).

This provides useful international comparisons of:

  • The percentage variation in student performance in reading explained by students’ socio-economic background (the strength of the gradient showing the association between student performance and background) and
  • The average gap in reading performance of students from different socio-economic backgrounds (the slope of the gradient measuring by how much student performance changes when socio-economic status changes).

The table reproduced below shows that, on the first of these measures, New Zealand is three points above the OECD average of 14%, so in the upper part of the distribution but not too far distant from other high performing countries (eg Singapore 15%, Shanghai 12%, Korea 11%, Canada 9%.

But on the second measure, New Zealand’s score of 52 exceeds that of every other country in the table. Competitors’ scores include: Singapore 47, Korea 32, Canda 32, Finland 31, Shanghai 27 and Kong Kong 17.

The text tells us:

Where the slope of the gradient is steep and the gradient is strong, the challenges are greatest because this combination implies that students and schools are unlikely to “escape” the close relationship between socioeconomic background and learning outcomes. In these countries, this strong relationship also produces marked differences in performance between students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. Where the slope is steep and the gradient weak, the relationship between socio-economic background and learning outcomes is an average tendency with many students performing above or below what is expected by this general trend.’

Only Belgium and New Zealand demonstrate ‘high average performance and large socio-economic inequalities’.

I sought in vain for a publicly-available and reliable outcome measure – whether of achievement or destination – that would throw further light on the existence of an excellence gap between advantaged and disadvantaged high attainers.

But one can reasonably assume that the relationships identified in this PISA analysis apply at each level of performance, so that New Zealand’s excellence gap is likely to be fairly pronounced.

Cross-referencing Data on Ethnic and Socio-Economic Underachievement

Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right place, but educational achievement data that cross-references ethnic and socio-economic background seems conspicuously thin on the ground.

This Table offers a beguiling glimpse into analysis across both these variables. It too uses school deciles as a proxy, but groups them into five quintiles:

From this we can infer that, although European/Pakeha tend to achieve more highly:

  • Maori in decile 7-10 schools (quintiles 4-5) and Pasifika in decile 5-10 schools (quintiles 3-5) are more likely to achieve a university entrance standard than European/Pakeha in decile 1-2 schools (quintile 1)
  • Maori and Pasifika in decile 9-10 schools (quintile 5) are more likely to achieve a university entrance standard than European/Pakeha in decile 1-6 schools (quintiles 1-3)

However, the overall variation we have already noted between schools in the same decile on this measure suggests that there will be similar variation as far as disadvantaged students are concerned (to the extent that they are represented in higher decile schools). It is perhaps likely that the strongest schools in deciles 1-5 will tend to out-perform the weakest in deciles 6-10.

So we have evidence of a significant ethnicity-based performance gap and a significant socio-economically based performance gap with a degree of overlap between them, though not to the extent that one entirely explains the other.

The New Zealand Institute’s NZahead report card explains it thus:

‘New Zealand’s overall strong performance in PISA masks three important problems.  First, wide disparities in student achievement exist between ethnic groups.  Māori and Pacific peoples’ average PISA scores are much lower than the average for Pakeha/European students…. the gap has not been narrowing fast enough over the years for Māori and not at all for Pacific peoples.

Over the seven years from 2004 to 2010 Māori and Pacific candidates for NCEA at all three levels and for University Entrance were consistently less successful than European and Asian candidates.  For example in 2010, 61% of Māori and 52% of Pacific candidates gained NCEA Level 3 compared to 79% for NZ European and 78% for Asian candidates.

Second, wide performance disparities exist for students from different socio-economic backgrounds.  In Education at a Glance 2011, New Zealand is shown to have the greatest difference in reading performance between students from different socio-economic backgrounds out of all OECD countries.  Although the relationship between students’ background and school performance is evident in all countries, New Zealand is the least successful at mitigating the effect a student’s background has.

Third, too many young New Zealanders are becoming disengaged and not remaining in education as long as their OECD peers.’

These are clearly overlapping problems but here they are presented as quite distinct, which rather begs the question why they are confused together when it comes to the implementation of educational policy solutions.


June 2012


Implications of Abolishing the Secondary National Curriculum


The furore over the possible reintroduction of a two-tier public examination system has entirely overshadowed the parallel proposal to abolish the secondary National Curriculum.

It is entirely possible that one is intended to be a smokescreen for the other for, in the absence of the former, the level of controversy and disagreement over the latter would have been much more pronounced.

Michael Gove courtesy of the Conservative Party

In an effort to redress the balance, this post examines some of the implications of abolition in the context of the outcomes to date of the National Curriculum Review.

For it is worth remembering that such an outcome would effectively render the secondary element of that Review an irrelevance. Much of the huge body of work undertaken since the Review was first announced in January 2011 would be entirely nugatory.

Presumably, all future work on producing programmes of study would be halted, though the future status of subjects for which single exam syllabuses are not produced  – potentially art and design, citizenship, design and technology, music and physical education – remains in doubt, as does the status of ICT and Religious Education for which different arrangements are known to apply.

At secondary level there would be no such thing as overarching National Curriculum aims (as recommended by the Review’s Expert Panel), no equality and inclusion statement and as yet unknown support for differentiation and progression. In essence, Key Stage 3 would no longer exist.

This post aims to ask some of the questions that will need answering before we can establish whether the political policy-making exposed in the media will stand up to serious scrutiny.


Key features of Plans Revealed in the Media

On 21 June, the Daily Mail reported on plans by Secretary of State Michael Gove:

  • To abolish the National Curriculum in secondary schools from September 2013;
  •  To invite examination boards to bid to become single provider of new, more challenging examinations (styled O levels);
  • New examination syllabuses would be introduced in September 2014 in English, maths, physics, chemistry and biology with first examinations taken in June 2016;
  • New syllabuses in geography, history and modern languages would be introduced in September 2014 if possible – with September 2015 as a fall-back position – so first examinations for these subjects would take place in June 2016 or 2017;
  • A set of ‘more straightforward examinations’ with a practical bias would presumably be introduced to the same timetable, though it seems that a combined science examination would be provided rather than the three separate sciences;
  • The ‘more challenging’ examinations would be designed for 66-75% of the cohort; the ‘more straightforward’ examinations would be designed for the remaining 25-33%;
  • The expectation that pupils should achieve the benchmark of 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C would be dropped in favour of an English Baccalaureate benchmark, expressed in terms of achievement against the new examinations. (Such achievement would presumably need to be expressed at more than one level, otherwise there would be no baccalaureate expectation linked to the ‘more straightforward’ examinations.)
  • A consultation document on these proposals will be issued by the beginning of next term, permitting a 12-week consultation period over the Autumn,
  • But the consultation would be pre-empted by the bidding process for examination boards to offer the first tranche of examinations – in English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology and combined science (and possibly geography, history and modern languages). This would begin in the summer, with a decision by the end of 2012, so allowing a development and preparation period of 21 months before the examinations are introduced.
  • GCSEs would be examined for the last time in 2015. It is not clear whether schools could continue to opt for GCSE specifications if they chose, especially the IGCSE examinations, which have been applauded by the Government and which would need to continue to service demand in the independent sector and abroad.

Initial reports also mentioned that pupils would be able to take the challenging new examinations when they were ready, implying that early entry in Year 10 or even earlier would be encouraged where pupils have a strong chance of achieving a high grade. (There would also be flexibility to take them in Year 12.) However, the timescale above precludes early entry before 2014, so the first cadre of pupils starting the new syllabuses will not have this option.

The timetable also implicitly confirms that a two-year syllabus programme covering Years 10 and 11 will be the norm, as in the current Key Stage 4. The Expert Panel’s proposal that Key Stage 3 should be reduced to two years and Key Stage 4 extended to three years is not to be the default assumption.

Of course, with the National Curriculum abolished, the very notion of secondary key stages disappears. There will simply be a learning programme of five years’ duration for most pupils, though potentially shorter or longer for some, with the final two years typically dictated by the approved examination syllabuses.


Subsequent Clarification.

Clarification of these plans has to date been conspicuous by its absence. Mr Gove appeared in the House of Commons to answer questions about his plans on the same day they were revealed in the media, but gave little more away.

When asked explicitly about the abolition of the National Curriculum he said:

‘We want to make sure that the national curriculum in secondary schools is properly aligned with qualifications. One of the problems is that, to my mind, there are many admirable aspects of the secondary curriculum that we inherited, but also some very weak aspects. One of the problems is that both what is admirable and what is weak in that curriculum is overshadowed by what people have to do to acquire qualifications. In that sense, our secondary school system is the wrong way around in that weak qualifications determine what is taught and the only things considered worth teaching are those that are assessed. I want to change that to make sure that our qualifications are rigorous and that much of what goes on in secondary schools that is not assessed is properly regarded as valuable.’

The concept of alignment is subtly different to the concept of outright abolition, and this may possibly suggest some recognition that the latter would be a step too far, at least as far as the current Key Stage 3 is concerned.


The Situation for Academies and Free Schools

One obvious consequence of the abolition of the secondary National Curriculum is that the current distinction between the treatment of academies and non-academies will no longer apply.

By virtue of their funding agreements, Academies and free schools are not bound by the National Curriculum. The model funding agreement requires that:

  • The curriculum provided by the Academy to pupils up to the age of 16 shall be broad and balanced
  • The broad and balanced curriculum includes English, Mathematics and Science
  • There is provision for the teaching of religious education

The Department for Education’s online material on the National Curriculum Review says that:

‘Beyond this they have the freedom to design a curriculum which meets their pupils’ needs, aspirations and interests’.

The FAQ on the Review offers the following statement:

Will the new National Curriculum be taught in academies and Free Schools?

Academies and Free Schools will retain their existing freedom to depart from the National Curriculum where they consider it appropriate, but they are required by law, like all schools, to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. And all state schools will be held accountable for their performance in tests and exams which reflect the National Curriculum.

As is the case now, although academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum, we envisage that many will choose to offer it.’

There is a reference in the remit for the National Curriculum review to the National Curriculum operating as a ‘benchmark for excellence’ in schools that do not need to follow it:

This idea is not explained further, though Mr Gove developed it a little in his recent evidence to the Education Select Committee:

‘The majority of primary schools, certainly for the foreseeable future, will be governed by the National Curriculum explicitly, statutorily, because they will not be academy schools. The majority of secondary schools are either now academies or en route to become academies. The question is, given that they can disapply the National Curriculum, what reason do they have to follow it? The striking thing is that, of those schools that are academies, a significant number pay quite close attention to the National Curriculum, not least because it informs the content within GCSEs, and not least because GCSE performance is one of the primary accountability mechanisms. Even those schools that can totally depart from the National Curriculum and have never been governed by it-fee-paying independent schools-have tended-but not always-to follow in many areas the GCSE specifications and submit their students for GCSEs. The National Curriculum has a significant impact on what schools do. That impact is there because the Government is laying out a benchmark of what it believes students need to understand, skills that they need to have, the knowledge that they have to muster.

It is open to other schools to develop their own curricula, and for awarding bodies to develop their own qualifications. Where they do, that is a challenge to the National Curriculum. One of the things that I have been worried by is the growing number of schools that have the freedom to do so taking on the IGCSE, for example, and the complaints we have had, for example, from schools, and as a result of the LivingstoneHope Review, about specific areas of the National Curriculum, like ICT. Therefore I thought it was appropriate for us to overhaul the Curriculum, but at the same time make sure that it was schools that decided whether or not they wanted to adopt something that we hoped would be better, rather than me seeking to corral the creativity of good head teachers.’ (Q213)

It is not clear from this whether the Government formerly perceived value in the benchmarking capacity of the National Curriculum itself, as opposed to the public examination syllabuses which reflect and develop it at Key Stage 4.

It is clear that, if they did, that value was readily sacrificed in the preparation of these new plans.


Implications of This Way Forward


A Level Playing Field?

Critics, including Estelle Morris, have suggested that the greater curricular freedom available to academies and free schools has been used as an incentive to grow that sector (though the perceived value of curricular flexibility to schools considering becoming academies has perhaps been overstated).

Under these new arrangements, there would be no such distinction in the secondary sector, though it will remain in position for primary schools. That is most likely because, whereas around half of secondary schools are now academies, only a small minority of primary schools have that status – and there is no real prospect of the majority of them becoming academies in the foreseeable future.

Although there is no further need to retain this incentive to persuade unwilling secondary schools to become academies, there may arguably be a backlash from those schools that did convert in the expectation of greater curricular flexibility for, under these plans, their advantage would be eliminated.


Outsourcing the National Curriculum?

In effect, the National Curriculum Programmes of Study – at least in Years 10 and 11- would be replaced by a set of compulsory syllabuses devised by the exam boards that win the competitions.

It would appear that the Government is keen to hold management of the secondary curriculum at arm’s length but, having closed down QCDA, its preferred option is to outsource it to the private examination boards, content that they will generate very significant income as a consequence, especially compared with their unsuccessful counterparts.

This in effect privatises the secondary National Curriculum while leaving the primary curriculum in the hands of the Government and may be regarded as ideologically questionable by those who would prefer to see curricular control retained unambiguously within the public sector.

It is not yet clear whether the Government conceives a similar role for universities in the design of examinations taken in Year 11 as it does in respect of those taken in Year 13. One might reasonably expect their influence to be more pronounced in the latter case.

However, exam boards may be required by the Government to accommodate several key stakeholders – not least schools themselves – in an advisory capacity.


The Nature of Exam Board Competition

It is not yet clear whether there would be a separate competition for each subject in each of the two sets of examinations, or whether boards would be allowed to ‘double up’. If a single board won all or most of the available competitions that might raise serious questions about the concentration of influence with a single supplier.

Nor is it clear how tightly the Department for Education will define the specifications for the tender, if at all. At one extreme they could broadly replicate the Key Stage 4 Programmes of Study; at another, they could give the competing boards carte blanche. A middle way is likely, but they will want to ensure that they do not replicate the development task for which they will pay the exam boards.

It is likely that consultees will argue for the specifications to contain the same safeguards that are currently supplied by the National Curriculum and GCSE requirements.

There may be greater pressure towards the retention of fully-worked aims and an inclusion statement than perhaps there might have been had existing arrangements continued, but it is not clear where these would be developed, unless by the government for inclusion in all syllabuses. Gifted educators will want to ensure consistency in the provision of stretch and challenge for the highest attainers.


Assessment, Grading and Reporting Issues  

Given the decision already announced to dispense with National Curriculum Levels across the primary and secondary key stages, assessment and grading requires significant further work under these new arrangements.

Mr Gove has already decided that:

‘In terms of statutory assessment, however, I believe that it is critical that we both recognise the achievements of all pupils, and provide for a focus on progress. Some form of grading of pupil attainment in mathematics, science and English will therefore be required, so that we can recognise and reward the highest achievers as well as identifying those who are falling below national expectations.’

This means new grading arrangements for end of Key Stage 2 tests but, insofar as they ‘provide a focus for progress’, those must also be mapped against end of Key Stage 4 grades awarded in these new examinations.

As far as Key Stage 3 is concerned, it must be possible to judge how far pupils have progressed since the end of Year 6 and how well they are progressing towards good grades at the end of Year 11.

It is likely that this will be done either by projecting forward the new KS2 grades or projecting back from the new KS4 grades. Ideally, the two sets of grades need to be designed so that one can see progression across the piece. My own ‘Aunt Sally would need to satisfy this requirement.

And of course the grades will be used to monitor whole school and system-wide performance, so school performance tables will have to be changed as will the Government’s own education plan ‘impact indicators and social mobility indicators. It will become much harder than it has been to judge continued progress over time against key gap-narrowing and social mobility measures.


The Disappearance of Key Stage 3?

The status and continuation of Key Stage 3 is not clear under these new arrangements. Will it be left entirely to schools to decide what programme of study to offer in Years 7-9, drawing as necessary on ‘ready-made’ solutions available for them to buy in, or will there be at least some degree of Government guidance?

Examination boards seeking extra profit may be encouraged to enter this market, offering preparatory syllabuses that bridge the gap between the end of Key Stage 2 and the start of the new examination syllabuses.

It may not be sustainable to maintain three totally different arrangements in the primary, early and later secondary years respectively. That is likely to be a recipe for confusion and render transition across these three stages more problematic than necessary.


Are Examinations at 16 an Irrelevance?

Although Mr Gove has admitted openly that his ideas are strongly influenced by what happens in Singapore, there is no reference so far to introducing an equivalent of Singapore’s Integrated Programme, which effectively removes Year 11 examinations for high-attaining students. The idea was floated in 2011 and I analysed it here.

There are those who argue that, with the impending increase in the school-leaving age to 18, examinations in Year 11 become increasingly meaningless and irrelevant and could potentially be eliminated for all learners. Were that to happen though, it is likely that end of Key Stage 2 examinations would assume even greater significance, so increasing the pressure on 11 year-olds taking the tests.



On top of all these complex and difficult issues, there is a host of problems associated with shifting from a single tier to a twin-track exam system.

Even leaving aside the huge equity and social mobility considerations which have so over-dominated the media coverage one must also take into account:

  • The significant cost, balanced against potential savings and where these will fall within the education system (we have yet to see any estimates);
  • The exceedingly tight timescale for the changes proposed, with a very short development and testing period for successful examination boards and precious little implementation time for schools (and extending one period inevitably shortens the other);
  • The enormous level of disruption and change that will have to be managed by schools simultaneously, alongside unprecedented levels of change elsewhere in the system. As OFQUAL has noted there are especially significant risks for secondary schools and the wider education system in simultaneously managing extensive reform to public examinations at 16 and 18. On the face of it, such double-banking is not the optimal approach, but this Government is determined to ensure that its reforms are all but irreversible by the time of the next General Election, scheduled for 2015.



It appears from the latest speeches, debates and briefing that Ministers are now back-tracking from the idea of a two-tier examination system.

But vague and potentially irreconcilable ideas are being peddled in its place:

  • The majority of pupils will be expected to take challenging examinations in Year 11. None of these examinations will be tiered, regardless of subject.
  • Some pupils will take these challenging examinations later on, in Year 12 or 13. Some pupils will be able to take them earlier, if they are ready.
  • The pupils who don’t take the challenging exams until after Year 11 – and maybe also some of those entering during Year 11 or earlier – may take a less challenging examination (branded N Level) beforehand.
  • Presumably the N Level will also be available on a ‘when ready’ basis, so it could become an end of Key Stage 3 assessment for the majority. This would reintroduce another ‘high stakes’ assessment for pupils, but it would also allow the KS3 curriculum to be determined by N Level examination syllabuses.
  • The proportion of pupils entering the more challenging examinations has been placed at 80%, but that begs the question what provision will be made for the remainder.
  • It also poses difficult questions about whether effective single tier exams can be devised, especially in ‘linear’ subjects, for such a wide range of ability. It seems unlikely that the assessment industry is ready with robust adaptive tests that would eliminate the need for tiering.

As things stand, there is little prospect that the Government will offer further clarification ahead of the promised consultation document, which may not appear for another two months.

In the meantime, we face a situation in which: we know that National Curriculum Levels are abolished and will not be replaced; we understand that the secondary National Curriculum is abolished; there is an admission that further work is (still) required on assessment and progression, including for high achievers; and confusion persists about the future shape and structure of public examinations at age 16 and age 18.

It is hard to understand why the Government would willingly get itself into the situation where existing arrangements are judged inadequate but there is no clarity about what will replace them – and where discussions about the future National Curriculum are taking place piecemeal rather than in the round.


Second Postscript

Eight days after floating plans for the abolition of the secondary National Curriculum and the introduction of two-tier examinations in place of GCSEs, the Government has completed another of its signature U-turns.

Perhaps it was a deliberate ploy to propose an unacceptably radical reform, then to concede limited ground to arrive at something only slightly less radical, having neutered opposition through this stratagem.

Or perhaps it was a deliberate but miscalculated attempt to bounce the Liberal Democrat side of the Coalition while its leader was safely out of the country – a direct challenge to Deputy Prime Minister Clegg, who regularly manoeuvres his tanks on the Govian lawn.

The shadowy ‘sources’ that were behind the initial Daily Mail story chose the TES to explain the latest Government position. Maybe the Mail was being punished for garbling the original story: the follow-up was given to education journalists who might be expected to understand it better.


What Has Changed?

The new position is only subtly different to its predecessor:

  • The secondary National Curriculum will not be abolished, because that would require legislation;
  • So Ministers plan a ‘skeleton National Curriculum’ incorporating:

 ‘”very, very short” programmes of study that will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught’.

  • The idea that examination boards will compete through a procurement exercise to offer single examinations in each subject is retained, but only in the core subjects – English, maths and science;
  • In the other English Baccalaureate subjects the examination boards would be required to improve their syllabuses – presumably by meeting specific requirements laid down by Ofqual on behalf of the Government. Syllabuses would need to satisfy these requirements to count towards the Baccalaureate;
  • A two-tier examination system is still planned. The new, more challenging ‘O level style’ exams would be taken ‘when ready’ and some students would not be ready until Year 12 or 13. By that stage, up to 80% of students might have taken them;
  • The new less demanding ‘N level style’ examinations would be taken, presumably in Year 11, by those not (yet) ready for ‘O level style’ examinations. We do not know what proportion of the cohort would be entered for ‘N level’. Some of the ‘N level’ entrants would upgrade to ‘O level’ at a later stage, but some 20% of the cohort would not;
  • This is likely to mean single board examinations at ‘N level’ in English, maths and combined science, and at ‘O level’ in English, maths, physics, chemistry and biology. The timetable for development and introduction is unchanged – the syllabuses would be introduced in September 2014 leading to first examinations in Summer 2016;
  • The Government’s twin goals are reportedly:

“to replace existing GCSEs in English, maths and science with substantially more demanding ones, and get Whitehall almost totally out of everything else to do with the secondary curriculum and exam system.”

  • But, strangely, these reforms only have a limited shelf life – of exactly four years. They will be outmoded in 2020 since the Government:

‘believes there is no point in planning further ahead because of technological innovations, such as plans by global elite universities like Harvard to make their courses available online. Sources in government argue that these changes will “break” the whole existing model of school and university education.’

What Are the Implications?

This new formulation leaves many of the existing questions unanswered and even manages to pose some fresh ones.

It is clear that the primary National Curriculum is likely to comprise detailed programmes of study in the three core subjects – ‘given the fundamental importance of these subjects as a foundation for further study and as the basis for our system of school accountability’ (DfE website) – and much shorter programmes of study in the remaining foundation subjects.

Similarly, there will be single syllabuses and single exams in the National Curriculum core subjects at Key Stage 4, but relatively greater choice of syllabuses and exams in the foundation subjects. The status of IGCSEs in the core subjects is unclear. Would they too be ruled out when the new single board exams are introduced?

What happens at Key Stage 3 also remains unclear, but it would not make sense if the approach was inconsistent with the other key stages, so one might expect fairly detailed programmes of study for the core subjects, providing a bridge between the primary programmes and the KS4 syllabuses.

In science a two-tier programme of study will be needed if students follow combined science or three separate sciences during KS3 rather than opting for one or the other at the start of KS4.

There is some ideological inconsistency in the reported desire to delegate responsibility for curriculum and examinations while retaining the capacity to set out detailed requirements in the core subjects, albeit outsourced to exam boards at KS4. After all, if schools can be trusted with foundation subjects then why not with the core subjects too?

One might also question why it is so necessary to delegate curricular responsibility when the Government is simultaneously centralising responsibility for school funding through mass conversion to academy status.

The notion of a curricular ‘benchmark for excellence’ for academies is somewhat compromised, especially outside the core subjects. At KS4, the benchmark concept is dismissed in favour of a single compulsory exam, imposed on academies and non-academies alike.

Big unanswered questions remain about whether the Government will specify overarching curriculum aims to replace the existing statement. Will there be a new inclusion statement and a new set of expectations for cross-cutting spiritual, moral, social and cultural development? Arguably these are significant components of a ‘benchmark for excellence’.

The reference to a 4-year shelf life is mysterious and troubling. It is not clear why provision of online higher education courses should have implications for the shape of the National Curriculum. Conspiracy theorists may smell a rat.

If school level courses were to shift predominantly online within the remainder of this decade, why would that necessarily invalidate the concept of a National Curriculum? Such a shift would arguably make it much easier to standardise provision across 20,000 different settings were a future government to see advantage in doing so.

It goes without saying that National Curriculum content needs to be kept under regular review given the development of knowledge and understanding, but that is a different issue.

Meanwhile, it appears that a two-tier examination system remains integral to the Government’s direction of travel. At least 20% of students will never be entered for the more challenging ‘O level-style examinations.

And it is by no means certain that tiered papers will not be needed in at least some of those examinations, so the argument that one type of tiering will simply be substituted for another may not hold water.

As I have already noted above, we will also need more demanding qualifications to challenge high-attaining students who achieve the highest grades in the ‘O level-style’ examinations by the end of Year 10, or even earlier.

It is interesting that the Education Select Committee is reported to be about to recommend single exam syllabuses rather than single exams in the core subjects and possibly the remaining English Baccalaureate subjects too.

That would still permit several boards to offer exams in each subject, so has clear advantages over the monopoly approach envisaged by the Government, at least for the core subjects.

But it would make sense for that syllabus to be written by the Government, which is at odds with the Government’s desire not to be involved. Such a national syllabus would be a National Curriculum programme of study by another name. (It is hard to see how the task could be devolved to one of the boards, though perhaps they could undertake it collaboratively.)


In Sum…

When we factor in the decision to abandon National Curriculum levels, it is still far from certain that this way forward amounts to a ‘qualifications and curriculum framework which supports and stretches every child’.

In recognition of the risks that it perceives, GT Voice is developing a policy statement which calls on the Government to take three key steps to tackle the issue of progression for high-attaining pupils.

More generally, there is a clear tension between a minimalist National Curriculum plus twin-track examination system and that critically important commitment.



July 2012

A Basic Framework for National Curriculum Assessment


I thought it would be fun to publish a very basic Aunt Sally, to stimulate discussion about how to assess and report attainment and progression within the new National Curriculum.

In the spirit of all good Aunt Sallies, this one begs more questions than it answers. But, hopefully, I’ve designed it in such a way that they are the necessary questions to address.

I cordially invite you to frame the questions and, ideally, provide some possible answers. Alternatively, why not describe an alternative model and justify the differences between it and this?


Declined            x          x            x           x            x
Maintained            x          x            √          √            √
Improved          √           √√         √√           √√
  Well below       Below            At         Above    Well above



  1. A five level attainment measure based on achievement against defined standards
  2. A three level progression measure based on achievement compared with the previous assessment
  3. For individual reporting these are combined using 1-5 for attainment and A-C for progression, eg 5A = Well above expected attainment and has improved compared with previous assessment; 3C = At expected attainment and has declined compared with previous assessment; 1B = Well below expected attainment, maintaining performance level in previous assessment
  4. For school level reporting schools get weighted credit: a single credit where there is a single tick in the table above; a double credit where there is a double tick.
  5. Schools might receive an additional bonus credit for Pupil Premium-eligible learners who receive a single or double credit.

‘Best fit’ judgements made against the standards, defined as follows:

  • Well below: Has mastered the core National Curriculum requirements with difficulty; at significant risk of falling short of mastery; requires continued targeted challenge and support to maintain it.
  •  Below: Has mastered the core National Curriculum requirements with support and made some progress with the school’s supplementary curriculum.
  •  At: Has mastered the core National Curriculum requirements and the school’s supplementary curriculum.
  • Above: Has mastered the core National Curriculum requirements and the school’s supplementary curriculum with ease; beginning to anticipate the next stage of the National Curriculum programme of study;
  •  Well above: Has mastered the core National Curriculum and the school’s supplementary curriculum with ease and is already mastering the next stage of the National Curriculum programme of study; requires continued targeted challenge and support to maintain this level of progress.



June 2012

The Removal of National Curriculum Levels and the Implications for Able Pupils’ Progression

This post is about the continuing lack of clarity within the National Curriculum Review process over arrangements for assessing and reporting attainment and progression.

It considers the implications of that and other emerging details of the new National Curriculum for high attaining gifted learners.

This is the fourth in a sequence of posts I have written about England’s National Curriculum Review:

  • In December 2011 I provided an extensive analysis of recommendations by the National Curriculum Expert Panel to drop National Curriculum levels and, in that context, censured them for neglecting the issue of able pupils’ progression.

How We Got To Here

All of the background is set out in my previous posts so I will not repeat it here. The bare bones are set out below.

The remit for the National Curriculum Review says it will provide advice on ‘what is needed to provide expectations for progression to support the least able and stretch the most able’;

The terms of reference for the Expert Panel instructed it to advise the Review in exactly the same terms, but the Panel neglected this aspect of its remit, noting that further work would be needed on the issue.

In Chapter 8 of its Report, on Assessment, Reporting and Pupil Progression, it offers a scantily researched and rather outdated view of support for able pupils in other high-performing jurisdictions, concluding with this rather generalised summary:

‘There are issues regarding ‘stretch and challenge’ for those pupils who, for a particular body of content, grasp material more swiftly than others. There are different responses to this in different national settings, but frequently there is a focus on additional activities that allow greater application and practice, additional topic study within the same area of content, and engagement in demonstration and discussion with others (often vital for consolidation of learning and identification of misunderstanding and misconception). Additional tutoring is employed in some settings, but it is important even in systems in which tutoring is widespread. These systems achieve comparatively low spread at the end of primary education, a factor vital in a high proportion of pupils being well positioned to make good use of more intensive subject-based provision in secondary schooling’.

(Since the publication of this Report I have published detailed posts about the extensive gifted education programmes that operate in three of the high-performing jurisdictions referenced in the Report: Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. There is no reference whatsoever to gifted education programmes in the Report, despite their critical relevance in this context.)

The Expert Panel recommended the removal of National Curriculum levels because:

  • It had ‘concerns about the ways in which levels are currently used to judge pupil progress’. It cites the outcome of the Call for Evidence in support of this position (even though a clear majority of respondents to the Call for Evidence were in favour of retaining levels – including a majority of teacher respondents);
  • It suggested levels ‘may actually inhibit the overall performance of our system and undermine learning’;
  • Pupils come to ‘label themselves’ in terms of levels and so the system ‘has a significant effect of exacerbating social differentiation rather than promoting a more inclusive approach that strives for secure learning of key curricular elements by all’ ;
  • ‘It should be possible to do better, particularly in primary education…By the end of secondary education pupil attainments are necessarily differentiated…However we believe strongly that before the end of compulsory schooling, the structures for assessing and reporting achievement…should foster the possibility of high attainment for all’;
  • Some of the high-performing systems examined appear to have a radically different approach. ‘Crude categorisation of pupil abilities and attainment is eschewed in favour of encouraging all pupils to achieve adequate understanding before moving on to the next topic or area’.

The recommendation to remove National Curriculum levels, combined with failure to advise on support for able pupils’ progression, led to continuing uncertainty about progression generally, and about the progression of and support for high attaining learners in particular.

In recent months, Secretary of State Michael Gove has made no secret of the fact (see the answer to Q 225) that he was inclined to accept the recommendation to remove National Curriculum Levels, at least in the primary phase.

It was confidently expected that, when this decision was formally announced, it would be complemented by a clear set of proposals for how attainment and progression – including for able pupils – would be assessed and reported under the new arrangements.

This Week’s Announcement

On 11 June 2012, the Government finally published a partial response to the December 2011 Report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review ‘The Framework for the National Curriculum’.

The response consisted of:

  • Answers to a series of FAQs about the Review;
  • A letter from Secretary of State Michael Gove to Tim Oates, the Chair of the Expert Panel; and

The Government also published a response to consultation on whether to disapply the ICT Programme of Study from September 2012 and a fresh consultation on the regulations required to secure that disapplication.

Substantive Points

The draft Programmes of Study are made available for ‘informal consultation’ after which they will be revised and reissued for formal consultation – the Review Update says this will take place ‘towards the end of this year’ – prior to introduction in September 2014.

There is to be a further consultation ‘later this summer’ on plans to introduce modern foreign languages into the National Curriculum from the start of Key Stage 2. Otherwise, the subject structure of the primary National Curriculum remains unchanged. Revised Programmes of Study for these other subjects will also be published ‘later this year’.

The FAQs make clear that, although:

‘The new draft National Curriculum for primary mathematics and science is set out by academic year for both Key Stages 1 and 2, while English is set out by academic year for Key Stage 1 and by two-year blocks for Key Stage 2, though with requirements for grammar set out for each school year.

And that:

‘This approach has been taken in order to give sufficient clarity in the progress pupils are expected to make from Year 1 to Year 6’

schools continue to enjoy flexibility over when they teach this subject matter:

‘Maintained primary schools are required to teach a Programme of Study by the end of each key stage. Schools will however continue to have the flexibility to move content between years, so long as they cover all the content by the end of the key stage. They will also be able to move on to the content covered in the next key stage early if they believe it is appropriate to do so.

This point is repeated in the introduction to each draft Programme of Study.

The FAQs give the following reason for the failure to publish draft secondary programmes of study in English, maths and science alongside the primary programmes (as had been expected):

‘It is important that we consider changes to the secondary National Curriculum alongside the qualifications that students take at the end of Key Stage 4. We will set out our proposals on both these fronts in due course. The decisions set out in the Secretary of State’s letter to Tim Oates about curriculum aims, the ending of levels and spoken language development [see below] apply to the secondary as well as the primary phase.

The FAQs identify the connection between National Curriculum content and GCSEs as one of three issues on which there will be further announcements ‘in the new year’:

  • ‘how we can ensure that the National Curriculum in this country is as ambitious as those we have looked at in the highest performing education jurisdictions;
  • how the new National Curriculum should be structured, including issues such as the nature of attainment targets and the key stage framework;
  • how we can increase the degree of coherence between the content of the National Curriculum and GCSEs.’

The letter to Tim Oates reveals that:

  • The Government accepts the Expert Panel’s recommendation that the aims of the curriculum should be defined and there will be further consultation on such aims (though it is not clear when this will take place);
  • From September 2012 all schools must publish online their school curricula ‘and lay out what is taught year by year’. These curricula must set out ‘high expectations for all subjects’;
  • While spoken English has been included in the draft primary Programme of Study for English, ‘We will continue to consider as the review proceeds how best to ensure that spoken language development is embedded across the curriculum as a whole, for example through the curriculum aims’;

The Update on the Department’s website adds that the Secretary of State will write to the Expert Panel about the secondary National Curriculum ‘in due course’.

The Removal of Levels

The Press Notice confirms that:

‘the current system of levels and level descriptors – which is confusing for parents and bureaucratic for teachers – will be removed and not replaced’.

The letter to Tim Oates gives a slightly different reason for the decision:

‘In order to ensure that every child is expected to master this content, I have, as the panel recommended, decided that the current system of levels and level descriptors should be removed and not replaced.

As you rightly identified, the current system is confusing for parents and restrictive for teachers. I agree with your recommendation that there should be a direct relationship between what children are taught and what is assessed. We will therefore describe subject content in a way which makes clear both what should be taught and what pupils should know and be able to do as a result.’

The FAQ adds some clarification:

  • as already noted, this applies to the primary as well as the secondary phase;
  • the levels system will not be replaced but the Government ‘will consult further on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements’.

It gives the following limited response to the question ‘how can this approach take account of the spread of attainment?

‘Teachers should set high expectations for all pupils and they will need to make clear how these expectations will be set in their school curriculum. A minority of pupils will have particular requirements that arise as a consequence of Special Educational Needs. Teachers must take account of these requirements and make provision, where necessary, to support this diverse group of pupils.’

But the letter to Tim Oates adds:

I have considered carefully the panel’s suggestion that, in primary schools, all pupils should be expected to have grasped core content before the class moves on. The international evidence which you provided on this issue is indeed both interesting and important.

I do agree with the panel that there needs to be a relentless focus on ensuring that all pupils grasp key curriculum content. The removal of level descriptors and the emphasis in the new Programmes of Study on what pupils should know and be able to do will help to ensure that schools concentrate on making sure that all pupils reach the expected standard, rather than on labelling differential performance.

In terms of statutory assessment, however, I believe that it is critical that we both recognise the achievements of all pupils, and provide for a focus on progress. Some form of grading of pupil attainment in mathematics, science and English will therefore be required, so that we can recognise and reward the highest achievers as well as identifying those who are falling below national expectations. We will consider further the details of how this will work.’


Summing up the Key Points on Levels and Progression

So, to summarise the central messages:

  • The full range of National Curriculum levels will be removed from all subjects across all Key Stages, primary and secondary, not just the primary sector as intimated by the Secretary of State to the Education Select Committee;
  • Although the published draft Programmes of Study are typically set out on a year-by-year basis, schools are free to teach them in a different order as long as they cover all the material within the relevant Key Stage. They will also be able to anticipate material from a subsequent Key Stage. These arrangements are therefore unchanged;
  • It is unclear from the drafting of the letter to Tim Oates whether it is agreed that in primary schools, all children must have ‘grasped core content before the class moves on’, but the preceding statement suggests that this may be unlikely. Greater clarity on this point would be highly desirable;
  • The draft Programmes of Study define only the essential core of material in each subject – so schools will be free to introduce additional differentiated material alongside. They will also have to publish details of their full curricula online and, though the format will not be specified, it is expected that they will set out ‘high expectations’ for all subjects. (That phrase is not further clarified);
  • There may be further announcements in the New Year about the structure of the National Curriculum, including arrangements for international benchmarking and ‘the nature of attainment targets and the key stage framework’, so the former may continue to exist in some form yet to be established, while the latter may change, potentially in line with the Expert Panel’s recommendations. There has been no suggestion of any action to align domestic assessment arrangements with international benchmarking studies such as PISA;
  • There will be further consultation on ‘how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements’. There will definitely be some grading of attainment in English, maths and science ‘to recognise and reward the highest achievers’ and ‘provide for a focus on progress’. Further work is necessary on this but no timescale is given.

Where Does this Leave Us?

We are not much clearer about future arrangements than we were before the announcement.

The sweeping away of National Curriculum levels leaves a big hole. While the announcements suggest they will not be replaced, some of their functions will need to be reinvented to provide the basis for grading attainment and supporting progression.

It would have been preferable had the Government been ready with an ‘informal consultation’ on this issue alongside the release of the draft primary Programmes of Study.

And of course the decision to dispense with National Curriculum levels has huge implications for wider education policy, especially how we hold schools accountable through the publication of performance tables, but also how we hold the Government itself accountable for its education policy.

At least three of the Department for Education’s suite of Impact Indicators depend on the achievement of specified National Curriculum levels, as does one of the newly-announced cross-Government Social Mobility Indicators. It would have been helpful to have seen even some preliminary information about these wider implications and the options for addressing them.

As far as provision for high-attaining pupils is concerned, the broad approach set out will apparently permit the use of a judicious blend of breadth (enrichment), depth (extension) and pace (subject-based acceleration) to meet their needs.

However, the balance between specified core and additional optional material remains opaque. It would have been useful to have received a brief statement of the balance assumed by those who prepared the draft Programmes of Study, since there must have been a common assumption shared by the three different drafting teams..

We are still uncertain how high achievement and strong progression will be defined and recognised. End of Key Stage 2 tests will need to be recast to reflect the new reality, as will assessment at the end of Key Stages 1 and 3, assuming they continue to exist.

A basic tripartite arrangement similar to the high/medium/low attainers division now included in Performance Tables (ie above expectations, at expectations and below expectations) will be far too crude an instrument to apply, especially when:

  • Level 6 Key Stage 2 tests have just been introduced to stretch the highest attaining primary pupils, and surely need to be retained in some form; and
  • OFSTED has only just recommended that DfE should raise its expectation of those achieving Level 5 in Key Stage 2 maths tests to four levels of progress across Key Stages 3 and 4 rather than the current three, given the high level of hidden underachievement within this population.

In the secondary sector it may be possible to devise a system based on current GCSE grades A*-F, in Key Stage 3 as well as Key Stage 4, but that too would have significant limitations.

(Incidentally, I could find no reference to the P Scales in the Government’s announcement, so it is unclear whether they survive the cull of levels at the other end of the attainment spectrum. If they are to be retained, that begs some potentially awkward questions.)

It will be critical to get the balance right between simplicity and specificity. The risk is that, in pursuing the former, the latter will be sacrificed and outlier pupils, including high attainers, will be the most likely to suffer.


June 2012

Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-up Volume 8

Here is my eighth monthly review of @GiftedPhoenix Twitter activity, covering the period from 9 May to 7 June 2012 inclusive.

My Twitter feed is almost exclusively dedicated to gifted education, wider English education policy and associated topics. These reviews provide a fairly comprehensive record, including virtually every Tweet that contains a link to an online resource. Apologies if any of the links are broken.

It feels as though the organisation of the record is now fairly settled. I have retained three sections on:

  • Gifted Education Worldwide, with sub-sections for each of the five continents and, separately, for the UK;
  • Gifted Education: Thematic, with sub-sections for Twice-exceptional; Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience; and, finally, Commentary and Research;
  • Related Educational Issues, concerned almost exclusively with developments in England and divided into several thematic subsections. There is some material of interest to gifted educators but this section also extends into wider areas of domestic education policy.

As ever, this is all my own work, though I have included a few modified tweets and retweets of originals sent by others. I have removed addresses and hashtags – except where these are integral to the tweet – and corrected a few typos. Otherwise this is a true record of proceedings.

The pictorial accompaniment on this occasion is provided by miscellaneous turtles and birds.


Gifted Education Worldwide

We really need an international summit on support for high-ability disadvantaged learners: http://t.co/GnW7hJ0v

Call for Proposals for 2013 World Gifted Conference is now open: http://t.co/NC6SVjH7

Gift Rap Newsletter June 2012: http://t.co/aTkT1ua5



A call for support for gifted learners from Rwanda: http://t.co/kky8KsxU



NAEP 2011 science report card: ‘scores higher than in 2009 for all but the highest-performing students'(p5): http://t.co/JoPvFxm4

Focus: Low income learners with Promising Potential http://t.co/dwRid5uh – on upcoming NAGC research summit

Not sure if this CEC/NAGC rebuttal to elimination of Javits is a new document. Thought I should post it anyway http://t.co/XKXvJiZH

Nice article by @anniemurphypaul mentions @DukeTIP: what schools can learn from summer camps http://t.co/4oGJmsjP

Non-subscribers can now read the full Ed Week article: Gifted Programs Aim to Regain Budget Toehold: http://t.co/GIqLKtBL

Nova Scotia is holding a Gifted Education Summit starting tomorrow: http://t.co/RyKYiLhl

There’s a strong focus on personalisation in the new Race to the Top criteria: http://t.co/0f9Hot2M

US NAGC’s National Summit on support for disadvantaged high-ability learners starts today: http://t.co/GnW7hJ0v We need one too!

Follow US NAGC National Summit on Low-Income, High-Ability learners at #giftedsummit http://t.co/ODwy7inG

EdWeek piece on US NAGC’s national #giftedsummit on disadvantaged gifted learners http://t.co/xTHPJzN7

Thomas Jefferson High School, STEM powerhouse, has apparently dumbed down its admission arrangements: http://t.co/lX4zaU0E

That National Society for Gifted/College Board deal for a SAT test in a summer school is causing complaints: http://t.co/qlC6jMTR

College Board now says Summer SAT at Amherst is pilot to evaluate the feasibility of such provision: http://t.co/90QXieFT

Row continues over College Board’s ‘pilot’ Summer SAT at a Society for the Gifted and Talented Summer School http://t.co/CwuWdRJA

College Board withdraws from its ill-judged Summer SAT deal with National Society for Gifted and Talented: http://t.co/N6TIsD8v

The ill-fated Summer SAT pilot wasn’t properly cleared by College Board senior management: http://t.co/YlMKHogm



Sri Lanka Daily News Editorial covers National Schools admissions reform to assist gifted disadvantaged students: http://t.co/R3kXlJ2B

Intense competition to enter Vietnam’s schools for the gifted: http://t.co/y6oiXu4v

‘People-founded’ schools offer competition to Vietnamese schools for the gifted http://t.co/2pwYJIrG

Israel has opened a new school for the gifted in Beer Sheva: http://t.co/9icNvxby – Half the funding is from a Montreal couple

Singapore’s education system pursues creativity: http://t.co/qpegi5BY



New Zealand has produced a gifted students’ Needs Analysis Questionnaire http://t.co/BcBWEudB drawing on England’s former practice

Gifted through our eyes, by guest blogger Tracy Riley: http://t.co/zWBZ4sDR

Gifted Resources June newsletter and Winter Holiday programs news can be read online at http://t.co/cBC7JwtC

Celebrate NZ Gifted Awareness Week June 18-24 2012: http://t.co/mhENRqNZ

Join me on the 2012 NZ Gifted Awareness Week blog tour: http://t.co/vRaMzq5R

giftEDnz Newsletter Volume 4 Issue 2: http://t.co/WsjpTo1n



The fissure within the Leonardo Foundation, supporting Netherlands gifted education, is made public http://t.co/yKlipbg3 (in Dutch)

HB onderwijs Nederland: http://t.co/ociH5vcZ  Looks like the outcome of the schism in Leonardo? Follow @HBonderwijsNL

@DorienKok is now curating HB onderwijs Nieuws on Scoop.it http://t.co/KDoJQnYB  for followers of gifted education in Netherlands

Dag van de Hoogbegaafdheid as zaterdag http://t.co/59lARfNN

Innreach celebrates Dutch Day of the Gifted: http://t.co/LYAjH1OZ   Meanwhile, the whenabouts of EU Talent Day 2012 is a mystery

Stortingsmelding 22 og ‘De hoyt presterende elevene’ (in Norwegian): http://t.co/n6djbSze

More from the excellent Krumelurebloggen: a gifted education question in the Norwegian Parliament on 16 May: http://t.co/VX4wyg5W

As recommended by Krumelurebloggen: a website containing Norwegian gifted education resources: http://t.co/82DGTxEi

Some Swedish gifted education websites and articles (commentary in Norwegian): http://t.co/d5cbQayV – courtesy of Krumelurebloggen

La politica educativa tiene algo que decir (1/4) Hablando a la Comision de Educacion http://t.co/93kzk6BX

Los cuestionarios de Rogers para la nominacion de los mas capaces. Padres y Profesores http://t.co/dwAWdYuV

Como te gusta aprender? Cual es tu actitud hacia la escuela y las materias?  http://t.co/EowjPqcr

Courtesy of @Begabungs I bring you an interview with Albert Ziegler in Turkish! http://t.co/AAwduIC0 – Real Tower of Babel stuff!

An article on gifted education that briefly references Portugal and Russia plus opinion from a Yale academic: http://t.co/v2DZCjsf

Belarus President Lukashenko promises renewed efforts to improve gifted education: http://t.co/yMQw4Tr0



Useful background on school debating activities and competitions: http://t.co/3Box0cB5

Well blow me down! They’ve gone and published the Wilshaw speech and it refers to ‘stretch[ing] the most able’ http://t.co/RacrpURx

One might read this endorsement of Hunt’s patronage of The School Games as damnation with faint praise perhaps?: http://t.co/wJw2vnB8

Templeton funds Centre of Character and Values at Birmingham University http://t.co/R6s5e0bt  He does gifted too. £1m for GT Voice would do

BIS is promoting http://t.co/WIvg6Sxk the IPO’s Cracking Ideas Competition: http://t.co/f8uybLnb  to find Britain’s young innovators

Lampl recognises we need to improve provision for gifted learners in state schools, but it’s an afterthought: http://t.co/Y6O0ShpX

Celebrating effective gifted education practice: Well done Burgate School English Department: http://t.co/JmtqAdno

IGGY is running a global gifted education conference in July http://t.co/pcJaMFrJ

IGGY Global and Gifted Conference 4 July: http://t.co/ZDRtpklY  – Rather idiosyncratic line-up that’s not in the least bit global

GTvoice Bulletin for May 2012: http://t.co/SkxBCJCt

Tony Sewell on involvement of university STEM departments with gifted students: http://t.co/MtzVuZV5

Parent complains at lack of gifted education support in Telford and Wrekin: http://t.co/sm7hMmUJ

@dpothin a Brazilian teacher in England is reading Eyre’s Curriculum Provision for the G&T in Primary School: http://t.co/ENwmxb1n

Gifted jobs: Student Talent Spotting Officer advertised at University of Leeds: http://t.co/04IjFlkl £24-29K

About half-way towards sourcing online and uploading all key English national gifted education documents here http://t.co/Dk3KIEVt

New and existing gtvoice members are cordially invited to register on our new website: http://t.co/Ollba1 So go and get connecting!

Registration’s open on our new gtvoice website, designed on social media principles. Come and give it a test drive! http://t.co/Dk3KIEVt

Stralsund Aquarium 2009 courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Gifted Education Thematic


Response to SEN Green Paper today http://t.co/Xe2RaP5V Personal budgets and an uncertain future for twice-exceptional learners

Nothing on Dual/Multiple Exceptionality in SEN Green Paper response: http://t.co/d9Mmrozf Possible focus for a special free school?

Twice-Exceptional Newsletter 25 May 2012: http://t.co/e94utdhh

Twice Exceptional Newsletter 29 May 2012: http://t.co/OuakTtjR


Creativity and Innovation

Christopher Chabris’  reply to Jonah Lehrer’s reply to his NYT review of ‘Imagine’ https://t.co/b86MSvK4

Creativity requires preparation and persistence http://t.co/8YgfG4Qy


Intelligence and Neuroscience

‘Infusion of amino acids isn’t necessary…for students in good health’ (Chief physician Chinese nutrition society): http://t.co/Tml9xMFc

China: ‘State grants a 10-yuan subsidy for amino acids to each graduating senior’ taking the gao kao: http://t.co/HbbdAOyq

Learn something new – your brain will thank you http://t.co/ohDvByud

Willingham – http://t.co/jYQosJoR – summarises Nisbett et al on latest intelligence research:  http://t.co/acL9jrwG

Does Personal Intelligence Exist by Mayer, Panter, Caruso (courtesy of @sbkaufman) – http://t.co/QtH6whhQ

Do you need intelligence to be successful? http://t.co/dGksRiTB

No evidence of intelligence improvement after working memory training – a randomised  placebo-controlled study http://t.co/ZIuEXH6p

Edweek on brain plasticity: http://t.co/eev7Erxq


Commentary and Research

Twitter for Gifted Education Support and Information: http://t.co/lIjmq6Pp

Transcript for last night’s #gtie “Gifted Children and Boredom” http://t.co/hoNng58Y

Just what is gifted and talented: http://t.co/0b8gaJ8I – Curate’s egg

Still a Square Peg and a Round Hole: http://t.co/QkACHEmC

Moving Beyond Achievement: Nurturing Skills Necessary for Success in a Global Environment: http://t.co/xpYPviPX

New blog post on acceleration for gifted http://t.co/HckYJcD0

More on multipotentiality: http://t.co/Q8fT6GGr

Gifted Education: A Dilemma: should gifted programmes foster humility? http://t.co/R9Lu1TSi

How building talent can turn an economy round: http://t.co/R70DTL91

‘High Learning Potential’ what does it mean?… http://t.co/U2SxXlGz

Part 2 of the Belle Wallace hexalogy – this part on diagnosing multiple abilities: http://t.co/69YsCOwm The Common Core and gifted education: http://t.co/dmc5Eiad

On gifted children versus gifted education (unified in gifted development?) http://t.co/05VPYtli (There’s still the G word though)

WORLD GIFTED 2013: Reflective Practice http://t.co/HGLednAO – Welcome Elaine!

Roeper School news release on the death of Annemarie Roeper: http://t.co/e0ipugWn

Kantengerber on Delisle on Olszewski-Kubilius on US NAGC on talent development: http://t.co/9CZc3jmk

More about test anxiety in gifted learners: http://t.co/WfynSyij

Parents of Gifted: 10 Ways Parents of gifted can help their teens: continued http://t.co/QabSdlJa

I support @MaryStGeorge ‘s plea for inclusion of high achievers in gifted community: http://t.co/1rVCvBdK so no ‘whiff of elitism’

Gas Station Without Pumps on online courses: http://t.co/6qSNIdGh  and AP for talent development: http://t.co/2D8uyWu6

InnReach Shares: On Giftedness and liking…Physics http://t.co/uJgvVGnW

A post questioning if there are 2-way benefits to peer learning between students of higher and lower ability http://t.co/yMr57958

House must be part of eternal play v learning early years debate. Holding back gifted learners is anathema: http://t.co/RAFBpKPK

I don’t know whether Carol Ann Tomlinson’s work would be relevant? US focus obviously http://t.co/Yumcew5A

Wondering if you’d also be interested in cluster grouping approaches: http://t.co/Dqklasvp

How to help Gifted Children?- An Interview withKaren  B. Rogers http://t.co/ELTAujZR

Thinking more deeply about how I nurture and teach students who demonstrate giftedness: http://t.co/shI7hnxQ

None of us lives up to our potential – a thought-provoking post from the Deep End: http://t.co/TnVQ4Qjs

Stereotype threat and growth mindset: does it matter if we’re lying to students? http://t.co/4lCOAxuv

Erin is preparing to ‘dive headfirst into a huge project’ in gifted education. She explains why here: http://t.co/a6kPoVS8

Parents of Gifted: 2. 10 ways parents can support gifted learners http://t.co/RDBr09kV

Transcript of today’s gtchat on global gifted programmes is up at http://t.co/zd6DlOtS

Ruegen Goose courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Related Educational Issues


Fair Access to HE

US investment in Upward Bound supporting progression to HE by disadvantaged young people: http://t.co/duq3gpqG

Will Clegg’s social mobility blitz show any progress against DfE’s own impact indicator: FSM progression to RG/Oxbridge? http://t.co/8xtZgd0U

Why didn’t Gove’s social mobility speech update Oxbridge FSM entry data? Oddly DfE indicators now say no data ’til 2013 http://t.co/8xtZgd0U

David Bell puts some distance between himself and agreed Government policy on contextualised HE admissions http://t.co/dls5uLIX

Oh dear, that’s a big decline in Oxbridge success at Mossbourne! http://t.co/NmYWdF2p – The pressure’s on for 2013!

GiftedPhoenix: Is Clegg proposing a student premium in place of the National Scholarship scheme and HE Access Agreements or on top? http://t.co/yBDxf9mR

If he’s proposing a student premium alongside existing support that’s a recipe for confusion: http://t.co/yBDxf9mR

If he’s proposing a student premium in place of existing support, he admitting that support isn’t working: http://t.co/yBDxf9mR

The ideal way to increase mobility to competitive HE is via a holistic, funded programme targeting learners from Year 9 http://t.co/0mAe9FoZ

Is it a pious hope that greater transparency over HE quality will support fair access by diversifying choice? Probably http://t.co/ZoirShWZ

Pam Tatlow suggests Clegg’s student premium would be funded from existing institutional WP allocations: http://t.co/CM0Uikio

New indicator shows gap between state and independent progression to selective HE; it masks stalling of FSM progression http://t.co/MIK0y58y

I predict DPM rues the day he chose AAB grade A level gap as an indicator: http://t.co/fyLz2HeD (p35) Won’t Ofqual reforms tend to widen it?

Sideswipe at Gove by Clegg: contextual admissions ‘painted by some as a dangerous piece of revolutionary socialism’: http://t.co/4Yb9hgUE

OFFA has opted diplomatically for faint praise, unsure whether BIS and DfE fully endorse yesterday’s Clegg speech: http://t.co/Gr81dNAM

The BIS letter to HEFCE and OFFA on establishing a joint strategy for widening access to HE: http://t.co/2hW6IBLc

OFFA and HEFCE identikit press notices on joint WP and fair access strategy: http://t.co/jCZa1Rzi and http://t.co/JlSapqEr

What’s Your Feedback on the Dux Awards Scheme? http://t.co/FPeRBTl6

Some scepticism about the Student Premium concept in absence of further detail: http://t.co/BKpIv5Id – use of FSM indicator will be an issue

Scots universities taken to task over poor record on fair access: http://t.co/uvdLrNLV

A bit more on Scots fair access: http://t.co/txvR9M07

Here is the NUS Scotland data on fair access to Scots universities: http://t.co/jjL3TVzr


Social Mobility

Collection of All Party Social Mobility Group resources: http://t.co/hfllAFD5  Still think ‘stars to shine’ theme needs attention

Thoughtful Policy Exchange piece on the influence of home environment on social mobility: http://t.co/Xc3QaJAb

Brighton College speech is oratorical tour de force, even includes the term gifted http://t.co/hHssxOks But not much progress to report yet

The new National Council for Careers: http://t.co/Eslgjd4z – that line-up promises a full and frank exchange of views!

Michael White writes well on social mobility but what’s his point? Laissez faire? http://t.co/eyVgWHRZ

So Gove was Clegg’s warm-up man on social mobility: http://t.co/eGhN6sA7 But nothing new here to counter Lampl’s open criticism

Another elephant in the social mobility room is that Universal Credit plus no NC levels eliminates our key indicators: http://t.co/ciTPPPKT

EHRC critical of Treasury for failing to assess equality implications of EMA withdrawal http://t.co/xuhYhTfy  Better never than quite so late

So Clegg to announce on Tuesday the publication of indicators referenced in Social Mobility Strategy (p77) http://t.co/eWOasPHK

So much for the tracking system – the real issue for Clegg is whether the indicators are showing any improvement: http://t.co/LYsCA0PW

Curious how Clegg will present new National Curriculum as an instrument of social mobility given academy exemption: http://t.co/tdSGL6nP

How can social mobility through vocational routes be key to Miliband when they’re mostly shunned by the middle classes? http://t.co/MSfkcCmh

The Miliband speech on social mobility – http://t.co/bqy9Gxx0 – fairly vacuous really. Still no specifics

Direct link to the new set of 17 Social Mobility Trackers published today: http://t.co/KWA8tM8U

Direct link to today’s Update on Progress on the Social Mobility Strategy: http://t.co/fyLz2HeD

Very brief mention in Social Mobility Strategy update for prioritising FSM admissions (p 19) http://t.co/fyLz2HeD

No real attempt in Social Mobility Strategy update to position new National Curriculum as a driver http://t.co/fyLz2HeD (p20)

SocialMobility Strategy update suggests any HE Premium to replace National Scholarship Scheme: http://t.co/fyLz2HeD (p29)

DPM has published extracts of the Clegg social mobility speech today http://t.co/4Yb9hgUE  – not sure why we don’t get full text

Social Mobility and Education Gaps in 4 Anglophone Countries: from Sutton Trust Social Mobility Summit: http://t.co/8RDCRMI9

Glad to see Sutton Trust will be publishing a Report on its rather exclusive Summit in due course: http://t.co/MJI5SZlT

Rarely do articles make me angry but this one did: http://t.co/x4BFAnYN Let’s not worry about the clever kids because they’re less important

This pushes the vituperation-ometer for Clegg’s social mobility drive to a new high: http://t.co/PcxPAmQq – Steady on old chap!

Policy Exchange on social mobility indicators: http://t.co/BzxWdtNL – not to mention no FSM to RG/Oxbridge measure and abandoning NC levels?

Helping poor clever kids out of deprivation isn’t a ‘new soft left alternative’; it’s long been embedded in socialism http://t.co/jeLDPgfT

More social mobility cynicism: is this anti-social mobility or just anti-Clegg? http://t.co/xGnfCNxj

Belated link to the Million+ /NUS Report ‘Never too Late to Learn’ on social mobility for mature students: http://t.co/sqitGHh4

Don’t disagree with: http://t.co/AkfV8k1f  Tackling the excellence gap and fair access should be a ‘quick win’ but progress is scant

Postgraduate education and social mobility: http://t.co/rIWwlfJY

Clegg/Milburn embody the fault lines with Government social mobility strategy over impact of inequality http://t.co/lHSXdvKp

Milburn social mobility in professions report later today will castigate medical schools: http://t.co/CHicn92o

Direct link to Milburn report on fair access to the professions: http://t.co/KSdEYZl0

New Milburn report is evaluating progress against his former report to Labour. Is Coalition fully signed up to that? http://t.co/KSdEYZl0

Bridge Group welcomes Milburn Report on Fair Access to Professional Careers Press Release at http://t.co/0Nhvlf8Q

Milburn still wants national programme to support early aspiration for professional careers http://t.co/KSdEYZl0 (p66)

Milburn is quite strongly critical of Coalition careers reforms: http://t.co/KSdEYZl0  (p67)

@tessa_stone takes Milburn to task for neglecting IAG as a conduit for social mobility in the professions: http://t.co/JwbPY1oq


Narrowing Achievement Gaps

Australia is investing in pre-school tutors to tackle disadvantage: http://t.co/Bk2Fkn2P

EEF is hiring a Grants Manager – £42K pa, deadline 15 June, more information here: http://t.co/qzgy4Gcl

Not sure it’s entirely a triumph for Clegg that only two-thirds of secondaries have signed up for summer school money http://t.co/aCEGPJL5

Will 50x £10K bonuses light schools’ fires when a third failed to collect their share of £500m summer school funding? http://t.co/shYIJuHr

OFSTED pressure and incentives for teachers to work in high-gap (but not high FSM) schools might support Pupil Premium: http://t.co/rKoS6LUz

Direct link to Clegg’s Pupil Premium speech which he is delivering now: http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg: asking STRB to extend beyond academies flexibility to pay teachers more for narrowing gaps using Pupil Premium: http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg ‘…this isn’t just about glitz and glamour,,,’ (referencing his £10K awards for schools): http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg anounces Pupil Premium awards arranged with TES for top 50 schools that have done most to narrow gaps: http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg floats idea of teachers undertaking Pupil Premium-related research with universities: http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg says EEF will invite school groups to bid for transition funding to support disadvantaged Year 7s: http://t.co/BfszneYk

OFSTED will be providing Clegg with regular (public?) reports on progress schools make in closing the gap http://t.co/BfszneYk

Why is there no reference in Clegg’s list of Pupil Premium measures to FSM admission reforms he trumpeted last year? http://t.co/rKoS6LUz

So nothing in Clegg’s Pupil Premium speech about prioritising FSM admissions or about improved FSM progress to Oxbridge http://t.co/BfszneYk

Clegg’s last education speech: Free schools must aim to have at least same proportion of FSM pupils as local average: http://t.co/EWdZheIM

@xtophercook ‘s twin ‘graphs of doom’ inject a dose of cold statistical reality into gap-narrowing debate http://t.co/fx9pAoxh

The pupil premium needs a harder edge if it is to succeed. New blog post on Clegg’s speech today. http://t.co/qAjLnR9M

Looks like Clegg’s given Education Endowment Fund £10m of new money for Pupil Premium gap-narrowing transition projects http://t.co/Q8tP5VSR

Anna Vignoles on Pupil Premium: http://t.co/vo8ioNDC  – Manages to be vaguely sceptical without nailing any colours to the mast

Hints already of disagreement between Clegg and Milburn over the ring-fencing of the Pupil Premium: http://t.co/gX60EX9x

DfE has started a library of Pupil Premium evidence notes: http://t.co/oai8qDHa  – Might have been idea to invite discussion around them

This Hallgarten Pupil Premium post begs the question why are SEN personal budgets tied to each learner; PP budgets not? http://t.co/ZDEZ7AiR

There’s no way DfE could prevent schools using the Pupil Premium for 11+ coaching, nor should they want to: http://t.co/Rf8rzXxH

Centre for Social Justice urges guidance on effective use of pupil premium; free schools to prioritise FSM admissions: http://t.co/IrTQ0rIu

Changes in the proportion of FSM pupils progressing to 6th form, 6FCs and FEIs – 2006-08 to 2010-11: http://t.co/CJqDBkpQ  (Col WA33)

Unusually full and informative PQ reply about DfE guidance on use of the Pupil Premium: http://t.co/0XUcVWks (Col 404W)

21.5% of FSM-eligible pupils  got 1+ A level at A*/A in 2010-11 against 35.3% non-FSM, so 13.8% gap http://t.co/11zB4JWy  (Col 610W)

Direct link to today’s Centre for Social Justice Paper on Rethinking Child Poverty: http://t.co/8X9os8KW

Baltic Swans courtesy of Gifted Phoenix


Very pleased you shared this fascinating report. Pleased to see it’s available online now too: http://t.co/L4tlS1Gx

Continuing the litany of Mail articles pushing for return of grammar schools: http://t.co/L6tJYkTq -That’s a dead horse you’re flogging mate

It’s the turn of Nadine Dorries to give the dead grammar school horse a jolly good thrashing: http://t.co/iI4wW8Qs

LOTS more words from Peter Hitchens He’s in denial but the Grammar School horse will no more feel the flick of the whip http://t.co/qJwfcen6

Come on Cleggy! Grammar schools could be engines of social mobility if only they were made to prioritise FSM admissions http://t.co/I7cLiuQr

A pro-selection leader in the Independent: http://t.co/oy5XaxFW Reforming the selection process of existing GS is the top priority

Grammar schools and social mobility – a Northern Ireland contribution to the debate: http://t.co/JJK2vboc

Just caught up with @xtophercook on grammar schools: http://t.co/M033wnyN

Would new grammar schools be acceptable if there were entry (and exit?) points at 13, 15 and 16? http://t.co/2cK56jWh

A couple of blog posts re learning from grammar provision http://t.co/zIOHpPth



How the benefits of forced academisation could have been tested empirically: http://t.co/mkG3r8g2 – The EEF is ready to take it on?

Mike Baker hopes that the era of Academy evangelism may soon be over: http://t.co/BiF6jYNS

Interesting (though brief) exchange on inclusion of supportive quotes from academies in DfE press releases: http://t.co/cpIfdtya (Col 311W)

Direct link to the new Browne Jacobson Survey of Academies: http://t.co/7SkJFfFF  – compare and contrast with the Schools Network version

Could the Downhills Interim Executive Board have done anything to avert the strike? http://t.co/Um07QFTn

This exemplifies why both SEN admissions to academies and dual exceptionality are issues requiring attention: http://t.co/aXWqnpL9

The Brum strike over forced academisation has been called off because the Council’s changed hands: http://t.co/VLNWQG9q

GiftedPhoenix: The EFA’s Procedure for Dealing with Complaints About Academies: http://t.co/U2osu9t8

The Steiner School Movement – an alternative approach with powerful friends: http://t.co/MyXnBYOE

UTC’s Press Notice giving the full state of play on the ones approved, open and opening: http://t.co/Myq4I47U

ICO  decision notice on Durand Academy FoI case: http://t.co/rfPDD5GX  (FERO413288) – requires partial release

SSAT enters new era with a management buy-out: http://t.co/YjaKiXvT

More background on the phoenix-like rebirth of SSAT: http://t.co/lhrsNaKG  A move from those swanky Millbank offices must be on the cards

TES adds detail on SSAT buyout: http://t.co/C8oTrhhI – downsizing to 70 staff, £10m budget; moving out of Millbank offices costing £1.4m pa

UTCs probably not scalable in the currently crowded schools market, especially given their cost: http://t.co/WeknrBUo

Coventry LA applying for judicial review over enforced academisation of one of its schools: http://t.co/LB3094c1


Free Schools

More on New Orleans charter schools: http://t.co/OKzKrDpQ

Yorkshire Post updates on faith and creationist free schools in the Y+H region: http://t.co/2kWepXkV

So Seckford decides it can manage without a headteacher in Saxmundham FS after appointee withdraws http://t.co/qXshw1zU

Revealed: Stour Valley Free School gets £1.4 Million funding for pupils it doesn’t have http://t.co/TBtsBsb2


Independent Schools

Govian sleight of hand in pretending independent schools are confirmation of the weakness of state provision http://t.co/sGqQQh3X

Lampl still pushing open access; doesn’t he need to focus on quality of teachING rather than quality of teachERS?  http://t.co/Y6O0ShpX

Crazy Lord Lucas piece on Sutton Trust Open Access idea http://t.co/2MxGEXwe  When did Gove signal support? Where would Labour find the cash?


Curriculum and Pedagogy

Hanushek argues the Common core is a distraction because states with strong standards tend not to get strong results: http://t.co/44pSvCXV

Guardian article about Sheffield’s Music Hub: http://t.co/uZW7PSbT

Wise words from the US on why we should steer between the Scylla and Charybdis of curricular prescription and autonomy: http://t.co/red1EADR

DfE plans shortly to publish an overview of research on writing: http://t.co/6vHEsnPA  (Col WA67)

Anyone found this Labour policy review document on speaking skills? http://t.co/9yoAaWQb  – Can’t find it here: http://t.co/9ohqOjle

Here’s that Labour policy document on Speaking Skills http://t.co/3lNUDT0m  Thin, with horrible colour clash but it mentions gifted

Points to 12 June or thereabouts? A 12-week consultation with 6 over holidays is already stretching the code http://t.co/A61QarPf

OFSTED Maths Report Highlights Underachievement of Gifted Learners http://t.co/sKNRa2kN

Britain’s maths shame – Mail version of yesterday’s Telegraph ‘fail’ story: http://t.co/KF1HMEiH

‘Bright children failed by poor maths lessons’ is Telegraph take on the Ofsted maths report: http://t.co/YaG1yp2d


Assessment and Qualifications

China’s blocking publication of national PISA scores; Schleicher gives an over-simplified explanation of Asian success: http://t.co/1QEOmSoJ

Schleicher moves his PISA roadshow on to Scotland: http://t.co/hK8rX9ZQ When will politicians begin managing our expectations re PISA 2012?

Ofqual’s Annual Qualifications Market Report 2012: exam fees cost £328.3m in 2010/11, up 8.5% on 2009/10: http://t.co/3Ks3dw6r

The Mail switches its sights on to school marking policies: http://t.co/6vjur2ng  – It was only a matter of time

Comment on that Daily Mail article about school’s not correcting spellings. Riddled with errors. http://t.co/f62xgcG6

Ofqual international comparisons study: http://t.co/ui6V6hVw – Not sure how this will secure ‘international comparability of…standards’?

Key dates and resources for KS2 Level 6 tests: http://t.co/83pJBWCW

New info on Key Stage 2 level 6 mathematics test http://t.co/VVmh2SyW

Seems odd that a KS2 pupil must be L6 in reading + writing to be L6 overall when that’s not true of L5? http://t.co/WYucPa3p

What’s Your Feedback on Key Stage 2 Level 6 Tests? http://t.co/SAEbq40B

‘The Department for Education is withdrawing from involvement in A levels’: http://t.co/dCk8MyS3  Not sure that’s viable in the longer term

Direct link to the Edexcel Report: Leading on Standards: Our Next Steps: http://t.co/ppZwg0Sv

Pearson proposes an Independent Review of Educational Ambition: http://t.co/ppZwg0Sv  which should address able pupils’ progression

Here’s the Ofqual Corporate Plan: http://t.co/98Km8OuP implying fewer GCSEs as well as possibly fewer grades. Lacks a proper timeline

Interesting ref in Ofqual’s plan to international comparative studies of end KS2 assessment in light of NC review http://t.co/98Km8OuP (p18)

Given that we’re discussing GCSE reform, let’s throw back into the mix the Integrated Programme a la Singapore http://t.co/7TGfd9qP

There’s long been an expectation in parts of HE that A levels should all be taken together http://t.co/GXy2TGnf It needs addressing

Telegraph scare story is really about the proportion of students awarded different grades in different jurisdictions: http://t.co/teY56bPq

This PISA-based Test for Schools blurb says UK trials were planned http://t.co/zTOlAJFc  Still curious to know why they didn’t happen

Ahead of a CBI Education Inquiry, Cridland endorses GCSE-free options (like Singapore’s Integrated Programme perhaps?): http://t.co/IFhyHXPY

Spot the contradiction in Cridland’s para beginning ‘This is about raising aspiration and ambition for all…’ http://t.co/nsBDKk7R

Foi Response providing the number and percentage of students achieving ABB+ at A level by school: http://t.co/JumQqYKq

Now why would 5 separate bodies refuse to comment on why the Kingsdale Foundation investigation has taken so long? http://t.co/rj5PbHrQ



The mobile phones issue is secondary – what really matters is how confrontational Wilshaw appears in today’s keynote: http://t.co/ciPbwmvR

Wonder if Ofsted will publish this latest Wilshaw speech… http://bit.ly/JYxgf8  – No, probably not

Agree with National Grammar Schools Association that a 5 A*/A GCSE measure should be applied universally: http://t.co/wAUi2igG

PM’s letter says from June 2012 but I can’t find any more specificity on DfE site: http://t.co/6mUZMubd

Many Hands make light work (can you see what I did there?): http://t.co/eXTugHuM  – HMC close to presenting themselves as part of the problem

A big thank you to OFSTED for publishing their consultation responses alongside the press coverage rather than after it http://t.co/huzSMPbj

OFSTED to publish revised key judgement indicators in June: how will new emphasis on progress work without NC levels? http://t.co/huzSMPbj


Teachers and Teacher Education

Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching – Darling-Hammond et al: http://t.co/tnl7wnGa

Why assessing teachers’ performance on the basis of pupils’ performance may be bad news for high attainers: http://t.co/iiuLp3IN

Direct link to the new PISA paper ‘Does Performance-Based Pay Improve Teaching?’  http://t.co/V2AWalEi

The idea of cutting heads’ pay if they choose to ‘export’ a poor teacher to another school is simply unworkable: http://t.co/a7zqjmr4

Bashing the best ever teacher force runs counter to the fine principle of intervention in inverse proportion to success http://t.co/6C7T7ec3

Report of the launch of the Teacher Development Trust: http://t.co/yQ08IngL

A robust but reasoned critique of the recent Select Committee report on teachers: http://t.co/TOU7QFgC

DfE’s STRB evidence is a bit unbalanced: it barely mentions the problem of isolating individual teacher performance: http://t.co/ipv6GV9M

Annual funding for the Graduate Teacher Programme since 2007-08: http://t.co/a7f2GGB7 (Col 212W)

Ratio of acceptances to applications for servicepersons applying to teacher training http://t.co/a7f2GGB7 (Col 213W) Better screening needed?

Is there an offset between class size and teacher quality? http://t.co/AwRK28JZ  – Neglects some other important variables

DfE is seeking EoIs from those capable of providing non-cognitive assessment tools for entry to initial training: http://t.co/9mAVGt3J

NASUWT/NUT Joint Declaration of Intent: http://t.co/uMEvEzXZ – Maybe not mission critical but another straw added to the camel’s back



We should keep an eye on this combination of vouchers and charter schools in Louisiana: http://t.co/q7B7rUqx – it will surface here soon

Kelvin Mackenzie is advocating vouchers: http://t.co/yHBTLWMG – he won’t be the last

I’m wondering what the budget is for SEN Personal Budgets? http://t.co/Xe2RaP5V – Is it really uncapped?

LSE Commentary on 2011 study ‘Does Additional Funding Help Urban Schools?’: http://t.co/tqyiNn7Y

Central Government

DfE sets out the key provisions of the Children and Families Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech: http://t.co/Gic2WfN0

DfE’s latest quarterly data summary against May 2011 Business Plan: http://t.co/8xtZgd0U Guess we should see May 2012 Business Plan shortly

Education-heavy Liz Truss profile: http://t.co/0wB8e2MC – fuels the reshuffle speculation

The new colour-coded Whitehall, in which DfE is orange: http://t.co/SkygB6Q8 – half way between red and yellow?

Conclusions and recommendations from Public Accounts Committee on DfE: http://t.co/GsXX0RJY Confused responsibility for vfm in mixed economy

Labour’s education policy review follows Government in examining practice in the ‘highest performing jurisdictions’: http://t.co/SDV2RypI

David Bell today: HE needs a united voice http://t.co/0QfJocoR Yesterday: Contextualised admissions are wrong. HE to DfE in Reshuffle? Sure

Looks like an interesting Education Select Committee session on 13 June on Administration of the DfE: http://t.co/oRai7ywJ

Seems like Lord Adonis has decided he isn’t that keen on the Coalition’s education reforms after all: http://t.co/lZLIatZb

DfE records around 100 off-payroll contracts, many being academies educational advisers: http://t.co/qujoZnCX

OFSTED’s return on off-payroll contracts isn’t quite so extensive: http://t.co/EEIk2LCG

To complete the set, Ofqual’s also been quite handy with off-payroll arrangements: http://t.co/z2MNbqx2

@Andrew_Adonis: Significant intervention: There’s a state of warfare between Number 10 and Whitehall http://t.co/vKxxFbLO via @Andy_Buck

UK policymaking outsourced: the curious case of adoption reform: http://t.co/VO5tbRHl

New Department for Education Business Plan http://t.co/aKjFYzjq

Version of new business plan on DfE site seems slightly different: http://t.co/K8kS4KCs (but no clues on timing of NC review consultation)

Adrian Smith on the way out of BIS: http://t.co/NUaP9KDe


Other Research, Reviews and Reports

American Principles Project paper argues that the Common Core is a waste of time: http://t.co/urkr1GR6 – Nonsense dressed up as research

The McGettigan study for the Intergenerational Foundation: False Accounting: Why the HE Reforms Don’t Add Up: http://t.co/FcCU4btp

The Centre for Social Justice report card on Government policy – gives education reforms 7 out of 10:  http://t.co/IrTQ0rIu (p6-7)

Australia is investing Aus $54m in this Report’s recommendations for strengthening the STEM pipeline: http://t.co/GBDNyJXV (NB for 16-19 FS)

Direct link: Non-native Speakers of English in the Classroom: What are the Effects on Pupil Performance? – http://t.co/16ET0rUI

Link (not currently working) to PAC report on Free Entitlement to Education for 3 and 4 Year-olds: http://t.co/gL5rb7G4

The Center for Public Education: Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools: http://t.co/ZPq1Hg6i

This looks like a useful compendium of research and practice in improving student motivation: http://t.co/4OH4fRyq

Mitt Romney’s Education Policy – http://t.co/Bn3OMEXv – quite vouchery…

US National Center for Education Statistics: The Condition of Education 2012: http://t.co/XKQ7Ohy8  – all the latest indicators


Online and Social Media

A truly excellent and comprehensive guide to running a Twitter chat: http://t.co/gXdOzgDF

The Access for All model of Open Access Publishing is preferable to the Article Processing Cost model: http://t.co/F4vKvxVj

Kerslake:  Civil service must ’embrace social media…engaging with staff and public at all stages in policy process’: http://t.co/1PhznUrs

Twitter looking to work closer in the UK public sector http://t.co/PTMFUqTW via @BBCNews



Yong Zhao: How America Can Out-Educate China: http://t.co/AbZ626Li  – Fun

Sir Ken Robinson’s post on passion: http://t.co/ty3M91Sy – he’s on the money with the ‘hint of castanets’

These Universitas 21 rankings of HE by country are salutary: http://t.co/ArJ5T9ga – UK falls down on ‘resources’, just below Iran!

A reminder that, despite OECD evidence, Chinese education isn’t as equitable as we might imagine: http://t.co/okHeunYT

Have you heard the one about the Secretary of State, the Catholic priest and the Torygraph tweeter? http://t.co/0YyiIBTv

I can’t find anything else to say about this bible business that others won’t say better: http://t.co/3WAeQi1o

I see that DfE’s web editors have pulled out all the stops for the King James Bible (vanity?) project: http://t.co/8rxobazc

I presume the ITT for the National Citizen’s Service 2013 will appear here later: http://t.co/z4m2iCVT

The evaluation arrangements for parenting vouchers will show whether or not this is back-of-envelope policy making: http://t.co/ZPxIzNmv

Lords oral PQ on teaching parenting skills in schools: http://t.co/bwjTnQAN (Col 531)

Is Gerard Kelly auditioning as Wilshaw’s press minder? http://t.co/4gxBXPVR Or is he cross because he can’t get TES to bed until brunchtime?

MIT economists have launched a School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII) – http://t.co/AZTAl8Sj

Heath Monk begs the big question whether the practice of outstanding schools is substantively transferable http://t.co/6UkDSpzT

DfE: Press notices on the changes to SEN support for 2014 http://t.co/jbaZ7ijD

Are special needs reforms being rushed so they’re in place before the Election? http://t.co/XhHvckLu  – Beware the powerful Lords SEN Lobby!

Another senior OFSTED person pictured leaning against a wall, feigning insouciance: http://t.co/fLqNIWPg – only men seem to do this?

Is your school on the priority school building approvals list published today? http://t.co/TrKxRzuC

Tom Watson is upping the ante on Sandwell BSF FoIs: http://t.co/5RV4D297

New Labour ‘Partnership Into Power’ consultation document on education and skills: http://t.co/qIVI7XfA

I have no comment on the great Bible giveaway except, indirectly, by referring you here: http://t.co/GsaemZbz

Why Singapore education is successful (and why we shouldn’t import their solutions): http://t.co/aC6jaDbV

Interesting Gibb speech to Voice: http://t.co/MfVHblph -‘Autonomy’ and ‘freedom’ predominate; ‘support’ is reserved for learners’ behaviour

FoI response in which DfE admits that it doesn’t know the cost of making a SEN statement: http://t.co/WmhQdmaL – Rather surprised by that

Progress report on US Education Department’s Place-Based Strategy (policy alignment a la Harlem Children’s Zone): http://t.co/uTo4Xc1V



June 2012