Whither National Curriculum Assessment Without Levels?

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Do you ever get engaged with an educational issue, try to interest and involve others and find you are flogging a dead horse?

It’s difficult to know whether you alone can see the significance of the issue in question, or whether you have identified an imaginary problem, or something which has no real importance to others, perhaps because they understand things better than you; can see their way through more clearly.

I feel that way about assessment under the new National Curriculum. So, in an effort to clarify – for myself as well as others – whether or not there is a real point to address, let me restate the case.

I have been worrying away against this bone (of contention?) for some time. Consequently I feel rather less secure about some of this argument than normal so, if I have got something seriously wrong, do please help me to understand what it is!

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The National Curriculum Expert Panel

Back in December 2011, the National Curriculum Expert Panel published its Report ‘A Framework for the National Curriculum’

Chapter 7 of the Report is about The Form of Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets. (For ease of reference I shall adopt the shorthand ‘PoS’ and ‘ATs’ other than in direct quotations. The emboldening in those quotations is mine.)

The Chapter begins by distinguishing between the two:

‘Programmes of Study highlight the focus of teaching and learning activities and how they might be developed. Attainment Targets are intended to make clear the learning outcomes that are expected as a result of experiencing the Programme of Study. Whilst the former describes what should be taught (‘recommended routes to attainment’), the latter confirms the standard expected (that ‘one has arrived’).’

After highlighting the importance of precision in ATs – and a lack of precision in the level descriptions within the current National Curriculum – the Panel opines that:

‘Attainment Targets in the presently established level descriptor form should not be retained…Instead, and consistent with separating ‘what is to be taught’ from ‘statements of standards’, we suggest an approach in which the Programme of Study is stated as a discursive statement of purposes, anticipated progression and interconnection within the knowledge to be acquired. Attainment Targets should then be statements of specific learning outcomes related to essential knowledge. This approach has the benefit of greater precision – both in orienting teaching and giving a clear rationale for teaching content – and in respect of assessment, since the Attainment Targets would be both detailed and precise.’

They suggest further consideration is given to the idea (attributed to Paul Black) that PoS could be:

Presented in two parallel columns. A narrative, developmental description of the key concept to be learned (the Programme of Study) could be represented on the left hand side. The essential learning outcomes to be assessed at the end of the key stage (the Attainment Targets), could be represented on the right hand side…

Taking this approach has much greater technical and practical integrity, and is likely to improve both learning and assessment. The key challenge will be to write Attainment Targets that are as few and concise as possible in the choice and expression of ‘essential’ learning outcomes. We do not want to encourage the promulgation of huge numbers of atomistic and trivial statements of attainment that characterised earlier versions of the National Curriculum.’

In the next Chapter, on Assessment, Reporting and Progression, the Expert Panel expresses concern at the use of National Curriculum levels in assessment.

They propose a ‘mastery model in their place:

‘We have therefore opted to recommend an approach to pupil progression that emphasises ‘high expectations for all’ – a characteristic of many high-performing jurisdictions. This conveys necessary teacher commitment to both aspiration and inclusion, and implies the specific set of fundamental achievements that all pupils should attain. The anticipated outcome remains that pupils are ready to progress at the end of each key stage, having mastered the knowledge identified in relevant schemes of work and/or Programmes of Study.’

Under this model, the ‘threshold criterion’ of summative assessment becomes the judgement of whether pupils are ‘ready to progress’:

‘The approach to progression that we are proposing carries implications for assessment, since the purpose of statutory assessment would change from assigning a ‘best fit’ level to each pupil to tracking which elements of the curriculum they have adequately achieved and those which require more attention.

For the reasons we set out in the previous chapter, the focus of ‘standard attained’ should be on these specific elements, rather than a generalised notion of a level. In plain language, all assessment and other processes should bring people back to the content of the curriculum (and the extent to which it has been taught and learned), instead of focusing on abstracted and arbitrary expressions of the curriculum such as ‘levels’. We believe that it is vital for all assessment, up to the point of public examinations, to be focused on which specific elements of the curriculum an individual has deeply understood and which they have not. As the research on feedback shows, summary reporting in the form of grades or levels is too general to unlock parental support for learning, for effective targeting of learning support, or for genuine recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of schools’ programmes. In line with Early Years Foundation Stage reporting, this suggests more detailed profiling of students’ attainment. There must be great care to avoid the problems of the past regarding development of highly cumbersome and bureaucratic assessment and reporting arrangements. However, we believe that constant assessment to levels is itself over-burdensome, obscures the genuine strengths and weaknesses in a pupil’s attainment, obscures parental understanding of the areas in which they might best support their child’s learning, and likewise, weakens teachers’ clear understanding and identification of pupils’ specific weaknesses or misunderstandings.’

The Panel adds that reporting:

‘Could be based on a ‘ready to progress’ measure broken down into key areas of subjects’

while Performance Tables:

Could be constructed on the basis of the proportions of pupils in any cohort having reached the ‘ready to progress’ level at the end of the key stage.’

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Response to the Expert Panel

In June 2012, the Secretary of State published his response to the Expert Panel Report, in the form of a letter to its Chairman, also publishing initial draft PoS for Key Stages 1-2 in the core subjects of English, maths and science.

The letter says:

‘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.

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 that are falling below national expectations. We will consider further the details of how this will work.’

The FAQ briefing accompanying the announcement makes clear that the draft core primary PoS have been set out on a predominantly year-by year basis:

‘to give sufficient clarity in the progress pupils are expected to make from Year 1 to Year 6’

But this does not compromise schools’ flexibility:

‘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.

The briefing explains that there will be further announcements about how the new National Curriculum should be structured including ‘issues such as the nature of attainment targets’ and there will be further consultation ‘on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements’.

The initial draft PoS in the primary core each have a single generic AT:

‘By the end of each Key Stage, pupils are expected to have the knowledge, skills and understanding of the matters taught in the relevant Programme of Study.’

This might suggest that the Government is taking the view that the sole purpose of the AT is to form a connection between the PoS and an associated end of KS assessment, whether a statutory test or teacher assessment. In all other respects, it is relying on the PoS to define subject-specific learning outcomes, contrary to the advice received from the Expert Panel.

To date I have seen no commentary on whether the draft PoS are sufficiently specific and outcomes-focused to support this expectation, but there must be some cause to question whether all of them consistently manage to be so, especially given the necessity for precision emphasised by the Expert Panel.

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Second National Curriculum Review Announcement

On 7 February 2013, the Secretary of State made a second announcement, simultaneously publishing a slew of documentation including draft PoS for KS1-3 in all subjects and draft PoS for KS4 in some subjects including initial drafts in the three core subjects.

Other documents included a National Curriculum consultation framework document and associated Consultation Document and a consultation on Secondary School Accountability.

The latter says:

Accountability for primary schools and post-16 providers will be considered in separate consultation documents, which will be published shortly.’

The National Curriculum consultation document has this to say about ATs:

‘Legally, the National Curriculum for each subject must comprise both programmes of study and attainment targets. While programmes of study set out the curriculum content that pupils should be taught, attainment targets define the expected standard that pupils should achieve by the end of each key stage. Under the current National Curriculum, the standard is set out through a system of levels and level descriptions for each subject. The national expectation is defined as a particular level for the end of Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. At Key Stage 4, GCSE qualifications at grade C currently define the expected standard.

The Government has already announced its intention to simplify the National Curriculum by reforming how we report progress. We believe that the focus of teaching should be on subject content as set out in the programmes of study, rather than on a series of abstract level descriptions. Parents deserve a clear assessment of what their children have learned rather than a ‘level description’ which does not convey clear information.

A single statement of attainment that sets out that pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study will encourage all pupils to aspire to reach demanding standards. Parents will be given clear information on what their children should know at each stage in their education and teachers will be able to report on how every pupil is progressing in acquiring this knowledge.

We are currently seeking views on how to improve the accountability measures for secondary schools in England. The consultation can be accessed here

Approaches to the assessment of pupils’ progress and recognising the achievements of all pupils at primary school will be explored more fully within the primary assessment and accountability consultation which will be issued shortly.’

This is accompanied by a single broad consultation question: ‘Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets?’

The associated Framework Document shows that the generic AT has been extended to all draft PoS but the wording has been slightly revised:

‘By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.’

There is no reference to arrangements for grading pupil assessment as heralded in the June letter. The inference is presumably that this will be addressed in the still-awaited consultation on primary assessment and accountability (which leaves a big question mark over KS3 assessment.

Shortly after publication, however, it was confirmed that there would be a new grading system at the end of KS2. This news reached us via a Westminster Education Forum event which was open only to those who paid, and was publicised in a press report hidden behind a paywall:

The Department for Education is to announce plans for new grades that will rate pupils’ attainment at 11, form the basis of league tables and be used to identify under-achieving schools. Ministers must also decide whether to order extra tests for the most able children, or have a single set of tests with some questions designed to challenge the brightest pupils.’

I noted how odd it was that no explicit reference was made to this in the National Curriculum Review documentation itself, especially given the reference in the June 2012 letter.

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Where Does this Leave Us?

The key inferences that I draw from this history are as follows:

  • The Expert Panel’s suggestion of a two-column approach to the NC, with ATs appearing alongside the PoS, has been set aside in favour of the PoS plus a single generic AT which applies solely to overall achievement at the end of each Key Stage.
  • The Government’s response to the Expert Panel’s suggestion that mastery and readiness to progress should form the basis of assessment is so far unclear. One might expect the upcoming consultation to clarify exactly how this will be squared with a grading system that will:

.‘Recognise the achievements of all pupils, and provide for a focus on progress…so that we can recognise and reward the .highest achievers as well as identifying those that are falling below national expectations’

  • We know that there will be a new grading system in the core subjects at the end of KS2. If this were to be based on the ATs as drafted, it could only reflect whether or not learners can demonstrate that they know, can apply and understand ‘the matters, skills and processes specified’ in the PoS as a whole. Since there is no provision for ATs that reflect sub-elements of the PoS – such as reading, writing, spelling – grades will have to be awarded on the basis of separate syllabuses for end of KS2 tests associated with these sub-elements.
  • This grading system must anyway be applied universally if it is to inform the publication of performance tables. Since some schools are exempt from National Curriculum requirements, it follows that grading cannot be derived directly from the ATs and/or the PoS, but must be independent of them. So this once more points to end of KS2 tests based on entirely separate syllabuses which nevertheless reflect the relevant part of the draft PoS. The KS2 arrangements are therefore very similar to those planned at KS4.
  • We know that there is discussion about whether or not to adopt a ‘core plus extension paper’ model for end of KS2 tests, to stretch the highest attaining learners. The decision on this point may also offer clues about the eventual shape of the grading system (If there is an extension paper it might be more likely to lead to the award of a ‘starred grade’ rather than a higher grade, for example.)
  • Pending the promised consultation, there is uncertainty about what happens to grading and reporting before the end of KS2. One imagines that the Government will wish schools to continue to undertake a separate end of KS1 teacher assessment, so as to provide a basis for a separate measure of progress across KS2 as a whole. It would be helpful if that used the same grading scale as end of KS2 assessment. End of KS3 assessment remains shrouded in mystery.
  • Once we move beyond end of Key Stage assessment to consider end of year assessment it becomes even harder to read the runes. It is conceivable that all such reporting could be grade free and based on the Expert Panel’s suggestion of ‘more detailed profiling of pupils’ attainment’, although – in schools still following the National Curriculum – that would have to be built upon the PoS in the absence of more specific ATs. Schools might choose to incorporate into profiles their own internal grading systems but, in practice, there is likely to be pressure to align end-of-year grading with the end of Key Stage grading arrangements. Parents will obtain greater clarity that way.
  • Those that still follow the National Curriculum might be able to utilise the year-by-year breakdown of the core PoS – ie basing their judgements on whether the learner has the knowledge, skills and understanding of the matters skills and processes specified for the year in question – but that is rather undermined by the statement in the FAQ briefing that schools have full flexibility to move content between years if they wish. And of course it does not apply outside the primary core and some schools will not follow the National Curriculum at all.

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What Kind of Grading Scale?

All of which leads us to consider the design of a suitable grading scale.

It would seem to need two separate components, one reflecting attainment, another progression (These could be maintained as two entirely separate scales if necessary, but it seems more informative to link them together).

How many points should there be on each of the two sub-scales?

The current Primary Performance Tables focus principally on three levels of achievement at the end of KS2: ‘Levels 3 or below’,’ Level 4’ and ‘Level 5 or above’. However, the recent introduction of Level 6 tests suggests that greater differentiation is required, if only at the top end. That would suggest a four-point attainment sub-scale, or a five-point scale if there is a case for additional differentiation at the bottom as well as the top to maintain symmetry.

The Government might choose to move to a letter-based sub-scale A-E to put distance between the new arrangements and the old National Curriculum levels. Grade A would represent ‘well above grade expectations’; Grade E ‘well below grade expectations; Grade B ‘above grade expectations’; Grade D ‘below grade expectations’ and Grade C ‘at grade expectations’

As for progression, under current arrangements the key distinctions for Performance Table purposes are based on low, middle and high attainers, defined in terms of their KS1 performance and whether or not they have made the expected two levels of progress across KS2 (eg a Level 3 high attainer to Level 5+).

Under the new arrangements, if we assume that the same five-point A-E attainment scale is deployed at the end of KS1 as at the end of KS2, it would be possible to adopt a straightforward three-level progression sub-scale: 1 – an improved grade compared with KS1; 2 – the same grade as at KS1; 3 – a worse grade than at KS1.

This would produce some very similar to the Aunt Sally I published last June.

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Declined(3) E3 D3 C3 B3 A3
Maintained(2) E2 D2 C2 B2 A2
Improved (1) E1 D1 C1 B1 A1
Well below (E)  Below (D)  At (C)  Above (B)  Well above (A)

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Schools could be rewarded in Performance Tables for the proportion of their pupil cohort making good progress. In June I suggested a system of credits and double credits as follows:

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Declined(3) x x x x x
Maintained(2) x x
Improved (1)   √√ √√ √√ √√
Well below (E)  Below (D)  At (C)  Above (B)  Well above (A)

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I also suggested that an additional credit might be awarded for any pupil receiving a tick in receipt of the Pupil Premium.

Should this grading system be applied to end-year in-school subject-specific assessment, I proposed a broad equivalence between the attainment grade awarded and curricular performance which draws on the concept of mastery as proposed by the Expert Panel.

It was expressed in terms that apply only to schools still following the National Curriculum, but nevertheless adding significantly to the prescribed PoS in each subject. (I called these additions ‘the school’s supplementary curriculum’):

  • 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.

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I find it conceptually difficult to think about such issues, needing constantly to remind myself of the implications of a scenario where National Curriculum levels are no more and a substantial proportion of schools (admittedly fewer in the primary sector) are not following the National Curriculum.

So do I have this analysis correct, or have I made a wrong turning at some point above? Are there alternative, better outcomes than the one I have proposed and, if so, what are they?

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Postscript

Following publication of Warwick Mansell’s post on the same topic, plus a brief Twitter exchange, I’ve been re-examining some of the argument above. Most of it still stands, though it seems most likely that – rather than creating an entirely new and parallel framework of AT-like outcome statements on which to build the preferred suite of KS2 tests – the final version of the core PoS are likely to be used for that purpose.

Such a decision would reinforce the importance of incorporating within the core PoS the set of tightly-drawn outcome statements that the Expert Panel advocated. In the absence of further clarification – and pending release of the primary consultation document – we must assume that scrutiny of the draft PoS during the current consultation process should take on board this added dimension.

If the KS2 tests are to be based on the PoS, rather than a separate set of ATs derived from them, the relationship between the tests and National Curriculum coverage becomes even more intimate. Whereas it might have been possible to define a different PoS that nevertheless satisfied a separate set of National Curriculum ATs, that option now seems closed. It follows that academies will have little choice but to follow the core PoS rather closely.

So closely, in fact, that it might have been preferable simply to vary academies’ funding agreements to make adoption of the core NC compulsory. But that would have all the makings of a major U-turn. Schools might object that they had been led to adopt academy status on false pretences.

There would be relatively less negative reaction if such a variation was confined to the primary sector, but that would raise the difficult question why primary academies should enjoy less curricular freedom than their secondary counterparts.

(That said, one could point to the same primary-secondary distinction amongst state-maintained schools still bound to the National Curriculum, since there is considerably more detail in the primary core than in the secondary equivalent.)

Even if this funding agreement route towards compulsion of primary academies to follow the core is deemed a bridge too far, a decision to link tests to the PoS may itself create something of a backlash, at least to the extent that primary academies have taken the academy route to buy themselves freedom from the relatively prescriptive requirements for English, maths and science.

What happens in the foundation subjects remains unclear. In many of those the draft PoS are much slimmer and it must be open to question whether they can sustain the weight of any assessment process. It may be left to schools to devise ATs that cover their own ‘supplementary content’ as well as the PoS.

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.GP

February 2013

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Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 11

4-Eyes-resized-greenjacketfinal 

This is the latest in my regular series of periodic records of @Gifted Phoenix activity on Twitter.

These now appear on a quarterly-cum-termly basis and this edition covers the period from 21 November 2012 to 22 February 2013 inclusive.

The post includes almost everything I have published about giftedness and gifted education, as well as most of my coverage of wider education policy here in England (where that is relevant in some way to gifted learners).

I have organised the material as follows:

  • Giftedness and Gifted Education Around the World: there is a global section and one for each continent;
  • UK Gifted News and Developments;
  • Gifted Themes, including Intelligence and Neuroscience, Creativity and Innovation, Twice-exceptional,  Gifted Research, Gifted Education Commentary and Giftedness Commentary;
  • English Education – Related Issues, including Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability, International Comparisons, Social Mobility and Fair Access, Disadvantage and Narrowing Gaps, Selection and Independent Sector, Miscellaneous Issues and Research

As always I have had to use some discretion in placing tweets into categories. Some would fit in two or more different sections (and, on odd occasions, I have included the same tweet under two categories).

I have tried to preserve a fairly chronological order in each section, but have grouped some tweets that are obviously linked. There is a handful of retweets and modified tweets originated by others but, otherwise, these are all my own work. I have not included tweets of mine which have been modified or retweeted by others.

I have not checked if all the hyperlinks remain live, but apologies on behalf of the source if any prove moribund.

The photographic counterpoint is provided by pictures taken at Kew Gardens on a perfect early Spring day.

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Kew Gardens February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

Kew Gardens February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

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Giftedness and Gifted Education Around the World

 

Global Gifted

Strong European presence amongst the keynotes for the rearranged World Conference plus Tracy Riley from NZ: http://t.co/ynNPSfDJ

But much of World Conference keynote programme is replication of ECHA 2012 and other recent events. Little new http://t.co/ynNPSfDJ

There don’t seem to be any direct flights from London to Louisville: http://t.co/xtYvVS3p – in case you’re determined to attend

The current World Council Executive Committee and link to details of nomination process: http://t.co/Xnn5jkyx

IYGC 2013- On Celebrating International Year of Giftedness and Creativity (WCGTC) http://t.co/Y9qo36t3

Latest World Council Newsletter: http://t.co/H94HHBqK

Khan Academy shifting towards talent ID: http://t.co/J0UO7VJ8 Big message there for specialist gifted education providers

@JonathanLWai in conversation with Khan about (inter alia) how Khan Academy can support gifted education http://t.co/cl23FA1h

Will 2013 see the launch of more ‘MOOCs for kids’? http://t.co/Vum9MqXI

International Conference on Giftedness and Creativity (ICGC) 2014 in Lebanon (new website) http://t.co/LxbWsxO7

On the Linguistics Olympiad: http://t.co/5SPTgb5h

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Africa Gifted

Brief report on a gifted education workshop organised by the Nigerian National Mathematical Centre: http://t.co/wixtK3si

No. Kencelebs are new to me too. More information here (but very few names): http://t.co/YlOM9beP

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Americas Gifted

Derek Browne of Entrepreneurs in Action is busy in Barbados: http://t.co/CdNXZHKF It aims to be world’s top entrepreneurial hub by 2020

Identifying gifted students in Canada: http://t.co/PoB1FLTt

New report on the Status of PE in the USA: http://t.co/kAQ6AJGv – recommends 225 minutes per week in middle and high schools

Looks like expansion at CTY given some of these new posts: http://t.co/5E8Nhpvm

Gifted education jobs: Notre Dame of Maryland University seeks a specialist Assistant Professor: http://t.co/FVDZrCYf

Unwrapping the Gifted’s report of Day 1 of the US NAGC convention: http://t.co/AeBcQK7e – mostly Common Core

Excellent review of day 2 of the US NAGC Convention from Unwrapping the Gifted: http://t.co/107FEFOw

Day 3 of the US NAGC convention: http://t.co/hnzw25Rl

Another review of the US NAGC Convention of recent memory: http://t.co/fvf5In8k

Assouline will replace Colangelo as Director of the Belin-Blank Center at University of Iowa: http://t.co/P6G3HPk0

Tennessee Governor’s School faces a 26% budget cut but survives: http://t.co/92V09PnC

Review of a new book on PEG at Mary Baldwin College: http://t.co/JVKZpJxB

This blog is publishing weekly round-ups of gifted education news and resources: http://t.co/GAnbkkrR

Another feature on the Renzulli  Gifted and Talented Academy in Connecticut: http://t.co/N6VKXfVF

Criticism of NYC’s gifted testing regime continues: http://t.co/WuodMPau

Duke TIP signs collaborative agreement with Shiv Nadar University to develop Indian gifted education: http://t.co/4sj5WXxW

Duke TIP and Shiv Nadar University to co-host a February 2013 Conference for Indian gifted educators: http://t.co/r6gj0k0c

More on the US-Indian collaboration between Duke TIP and Shiv Nadar University: http://t.co/ZcjQq50d

New blog up – My experience at TAGT 2012 – http://t.co/1p6njBx4

Blogpost offering extended interview with a college counsellor from the IEA: http://t.co/ULf3Q4Yd

Downward mobility in US: http://t.co/TmADZJWq – reinforces case for gifted education focused more on equity issues

What is your understanding of the Measures of Academic Progress? http://t.co/OF2h5Hke

Gifted jobs: University of Northern Colorado seeks an Assistant Professor: Gifted and Talented – http://t.co/D17clRgO

US Office for Civil Rights Report 2009-12: http://t.co/azEgrfU8 – includes securing fair access to gifted programmes

Colangelo retrospective on his imminent retirement: http://t.co/I1MLXpbz and my assessment of Belin-Blank: http://t.co/qjmYb45s

Colangelo signs off at Belin-Blank: http://t.co/v1JgvrUA

Denver Post article: Are gifted and special-needs students being left behind?: http://t.co/pWXDwLGO

“#Gtchat at the TAGT Conference 2012″ Blog post with pictures!  http://t.co/D7jsLh9Y

You can revisit the great resources @brianhousand shares at conferences on his website http://t.co/KJtbNvDW

New Yong Zhao essay on TIMSS and PISA: http://t.co/LhpexO4r

NYC U-turns on sibling preferences in gifted programme: http://t.co/fJZpIO5e and http://t.co/8bvYID9e  and http://t.co/ewJFDUDG

Overcoming Underrepresentation in Gifted Programs – Ken Dickson: http://t.co/4yfTcMbw

Gifted Education in the United States: http://t.co/nWuuIH6y

More grist to the mill for those concerned about gifted education in NYC: http://t.co/GwtaPOO7

Critical commentary on that NY Times article about gifted education in NYC: http://t.co/e4CBDG2X

Chester Finn misses the point over identification processes in NYC’s gifted programme: http://t.co/nJjDh17A

It’s Gifted Education Month in Alabama: http://t.co/SAhuaREP

What do International Tests Really Show About US Student Performance? http://t.co/aMrZjgyn  -Edweek on same:http://t.co/IYCGQabo

New Year, New Sustainability Strategy: New blog post from the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund http://t.co/PllTaOdp

Sheldon will develop You Tube’s ‘Prodigies’ for TV: http://t.co/Ndv3bFSy – well the actor Jim Parsons will!

Georgia spends 300 times more on gifted education than Alabama: http://t.co/aOkvBzpY

More about gifted education in Alabama: http://t.co/3TKKgdrQ

‘Why are our gifted and talented classes full of Asians?’ http://t.co/cufkRdro

‘Gifted, Talented and White’ (from Santa Barbara, California): http://t.co/VEfpLWoX

More about the Renzulli Academy Hartford, Conn (USA) and plans for expansion elsewhere in the State: http://t.co/6J50zPkx

Big list of upcoming gifted education webinars stateside: http://t.co/kVsF3yQ7

Davidson Institute eNews Update January 2013: http://t.co/CiFJKWzD

Overcoming under-representation in gifted programmes part 2: http://t.co/lsDUMBcW

(US) States Differ in Defining, Supporting Gifted Students: http://t.co/hqMCdY9m

THE report on affirmative action in US university admissions:  http://t.co/DjjsXvVg

Imbalance in gifted education programmes in Denver Colorado: http://t.co/Z6Jo1y9v

How segregated gifted programmes are hurting America’s poorest students: http://t.co/mpaWKojz

A new bill to improve the quality of gifted education in Missouri: http://t.co/kb8q0ru6

MT @teachfine: Are you ready for our social media blitz to advocate for gifted? It’s today! http://t.co/Qbi1EDZp

US districts experiment with partial homeschooling for gifted learners: http://t.co/AVHpM99D

Details of Wenda Sheard’s SENginar: ‘Bootcamp for Determined Advocates’ on 16 March: http://t.co/qMW0nzJR

NYT article about the ongoing debate on (gifted education) testing and coaching in NYC: http://t.co/Nix0fDHc

News from Belin-Blank: http://t.co/f2yp97DG

You can download several presentations from the California Association for the Gifted 2013 Conference here: http://t.co/HgKjQb24

New Jersey’s gifted programmes are feeling the squeeze: http://t.co/wxcDXkoY

US NAGC seeks a Parent Services and Communications Manager: http://t.co/ZB29umUx  – JD refers only to monitoring social media

NYC’s Gifted and Talented Dilemma: A Window into the Utility of Psychometric Testing: http://t.co/9xDrtcxm

Direct link to US Excellence and Equity Commission Report: ‘For Each and Every Child’: http://t.co/uFYpUOPLX9

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Kew Gardens 2 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

Kew Gardens 2 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

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Asia Gifted

Israeli Gifted education parts One: http://t.co/uE9Hn2fJ ;Two: http://t.co/rhS2TW6A ; and Three: http://t.co/ESoUbNjE

Feature on the Technion Sparks programme supporting Israel’s gifted Druse students: http://t.co/gFp37ORk

Shortish feature on young ballet dancers from the Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts: http://t.co/uhZMdEOK

Singapore will no longer identify the top scorers in the PLSE and public examinations: http://t.co/UzgSmITP

HKAGE’s 2013 Hotung Lecture features Yun Dai and Yan Kong on Chinese + Western approaches to gifted: http://t.co/r0ISAQ02

HKAGE Research Note: Towards a Multifaceted Understanding of Gifted Underachievement: http://t.co/630KpW08

Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) annual Hotung Lecture features Yun Dai and Yan Kong: http://t.co/QHNlkOCK

Report on the Malaysian Gifted Education Conference 2012: http://t.co/n9ZmjC8m

Poor TIMSS results in Malaysia: http://t.co/4mBzOxQF – this blogger says the Government is strangely silent

Memory and Cognitive Strategies of High Ability Students in a Rural (Malaysian) Secondary School: http://t.co/28RhrNQS

Malaysian Nobelist Mindset Programme via @noorsyakina http://t.co/VxtOLLkQ and http://t.co/NfmEm7AS and http://t.co/JwIvjgM1

SABIC is sponsoring scholarships for Saudi Mawhiba participants to pursue undergraduate study abroad: http://t.co/6Px5TnNc

The Saudis have been back to WKU: http://t.co/GmrcW6JF

Last in a tetralogy of Asian Tiger posts, here’s Taiwan Parts One: http://t.co/1iLfqA4A and Two http://t.co/hPCEAdi9

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Australasia Gifted

Feature on gifted education in New Zealand, especially the NZAGC: http://t.co/OYDvw1wl

The Kiwis also agonise over TIMSS and PIRLS: http://t.co/WRgWhrns – ‘wake-up calls’ the world over!

Feature on giftedness and gifted education out of Otago, New Zealand: http://t.co/6hOTvNZp

The gifted label should be permanently retired according to Otago IT entrpreneur (and ex-dentist!): http://t.co/UMu0ioD6

Brief article about upcoming NZAGC Annual Conference: http://t.co/RFHg12RD

NZ research survey: top students uncomfortable being called “gifted”: http://t.co/wX9jjurn

Gifted Resources November Newsletter No2 can be read online at http://t.co/ZTZmgnkS

Gifted Resources December Newsletter has been posted at http://t.co/5U966EQl

Gifted Resources January 2013 newsletter can be read online at  http://t.co/pXvb6y0e

Gifted Resources February newsletter can be read online at http://t.co/G4AfGS5a

Re-cataloguing Gifted Resources library 2 http://t.co/SQiCInto

PWC has estimated the effect on Australian national productivity of educational improvement to Finnish level http://t.co/QkFpLpJw Aus$ 3.6tn

Early entry to university expands in New South Wales: http://t.co/7XaKBFWK

Victoria Australia will accept most of the recommendations in critical report on its gifted education http://t.co/uKbLlH5W

Government response to Victorian Inquiry into Education of Gifted Students http://t.co/dRDyoJBU

Article from Australia on the Victorian Government inquiry into gifted education: http://t.co/3YDSVssd

That was the year that was 2012 for Sprites Site: http://t.co/6RYrASKq – Many thanks Jo!

Did you miss: In Memoriam Edna McMillan from @LesLinks: http://t.co/vvxRCJwm

Notre Dame University in WA has been running a Cultural Decoding programme for the state’s gifted students: http://t.co/eQcCLNHC

Our obsession with national talent is harming students – Australian-based discussion: http://t.co/i5wEMI50

Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians has extended its reach to Hong Kong: http://t.co/XOdlUVqW

Australian Curriculum gifted students’ guidance: http://t.co/Gw7qEnX8 – A useful comparator for English National Curriculum

Article on NSW’s Best Start Gifted and Talented Kindergarten Resource  Package: http://t.co/zgZjyQDA  – Here: http://t.co/ymAdE7N1

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Europe Gifted

If you live in an EU country do please lobby your MEP to sign this declaration on talent support:  http://t.co/apdpV3vW

Written Declaration on Supporting Talent in the EU: http://t.co/apdpV3vW so far signed by 84 MEPs: http://t.co/NmyvGE52

84 signatures on that Written Declaration on Supporting Talent in EU http://t.co/c6AlBEr0 -Time for MEPs to pull their fingers out!

New post (as promised) examining progress in the European Talent Initiative: http://t.co/Yj9zqqkk

Help to discover and develop talents in Europe http://t.co/UC6GrQyh

Reminding all MEPs to please sign the WD on European Talent Support: http://t.co/apdpV3vW – deadline 19 February

You can petition your MEPs about European Talent Support here: http://t.co/QY6z6RwW

Looks as though the Written Declaration on supporting talent in the EU (0034) will lapse: http://t.co/c6AlBEr0

It’s official: European Parliament Written Declaration on Talent Support has lapsed (it got 178 signatures): http://t.co/c6AlBEr0

Just found online an agenda for a public hearing last month on the Written Declaration on talent: http://t.co/AZKnV823

@jtoufi has blogged today about this new Opinion on gifted from the European Economic and Social Committee: http://t.co/4m67PQm3

@jtoufi ‘s original post (in Spanish) is here http://t.co/yIhIvur7  Link at end of EESC page to full Opinion http://t.co/4m67PQm3

Here’s a short summary of the European Parliamentary Hearing on gifted education I mentioned recently: http://t.co/2QHvInsL

Tumbleweed’s also blowing at European Talent Centre http://t.co/h3PrStDo dormant since my December post http://t.co/Yj9zqqkk

An interview with Peter Csermely largely about ECHA: http://t.co/vy2YTq3G

Csermely inteview from Gifted and Talented Ireland http://t.co/o7LmYi3s – Will the 2013 EU Talent Conference be there or Lithuania?

Lykkelige Barn: http://t.co/uE974cba – a Norwegian parent’s experience courtesy of @Kariekol

Danskene vil vite mer om evnerike barn. Vil ikke vi? (from @Kariekol in Norway): http://t.co/SwJ88xCI

Ogg tak for det gamle: http://t.co/WtSFz4DM (review of 2012 from @Kariekol in Norway)

Todo esta escrito. http://t.co/bDUY1uhY

No te pierdas esta entrada, puede ser importante http://t.co/eJsXtpLU

Talento y Educacion :: Javier Touron: El modelo de los tres anillos http://t.co/fs9kh4aV  e

El Revolving Door Identification Model http://t.co/H9xkPYUH

No estan todos los que son… pero donde estan? http://t.co/APywbAGr

Que pasa cuando identificamos en un centro educativo? http://t.co/N1odrpEx

Las escalas de rendimiento en PIRLS-TIMSS: mas alla de la media (I) http://t.co/TEsC9oSq

Las escalas de rendimiento en PIRLS-TIMSS: mas alla de la media (y II) http://t.co/ikUSq1dj

El modelo de identificacion Talent Search: una introduccion http://t.co/2VJPwQj9

Los principios pedagogicos del Talent Search: http://t.co/JbFj2fsT

El corazon del Talent Search: el “Out of Level” http://t.co/qSS46OCM

Todo esta escrito. Enero 2013 http://t.co/21DevppX

El Talent Search: un mensaje para las escuelas http://t.co/727lSPAJ

Es el Talent Search un modelo americano? La experiencia en Espana http://t.co/HnWZPWNT

El Talent Search a traves de los anos http://t.co/mP0OGS0I

KhanAcademy. Una revolucion a coste cero! http://t.co/O29fZtBt

Feature on the Maximilianeum in Munich, Bavaria: http://t.co/wf1seXWH

Good news: Our center will lease out virtual offices for other gifted centres around the world. http://t.co/Fwyiae9O

Report on progress in gifted education in both Turkey and Kosovo: http://t.co/y08uss6k

Congratulations to @Dazzlld and @Frazzlld for making it into the Guardian! http://t.co/Tzegj0rA

An ‘Offtopicarium’ on gifted education with a Polish complexion: http://t.co/3DEdAI3S

How to Help a Gifted Child? article in French magazine, Journal des Femmes : http://t.co/QvxaYzno

Support and Education of Gifted Students in Poland: http://t.co/yIE0UNTm

How Finland Serves Gifted and Talented Pupils: http://t.co/8fIDDxoV

Gifted Education In Ireland: http://t.co/aY5vuuLj

The Gifted and Gifted Education in Hungary: http://t.co/iYTgaRn8

“Gifted Education in the Netherlands” http://t.co/UxTE9yr

Acerca superdotacion y talento (Scoop.it page): http://t.co/IGSEnMTg

Hai sa facem si noi ceva!.Maria si Paul vorbesc clar (supradotati in Romania) http://t.co/TJjGRq0e

Young, Gifted and Roma (podcast): http://t.co/hMZcfCfW – from the Council of Europe

The Slovenians also knew about that European Parliamentary Hearing: http://t.co/YIF2egdG

The Austrians have published an English translation of their 2011 White Paper: Promoting Talent and Excellence http://bit.ly/ZuORto

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Kew Gardens 3 February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

Kew Gardens 3 February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

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UK Gifted News and Developments

Gender imbalance revealed in Cambridge Chemistry Challenge: http://t.co/UNja0acT

Direct link to CBI’s First Steps Report: http://t.co/Bu7A9gIo – demands stronger focus on individual needs, including gifted

CBI report complains of insufficient challenge for able children from disadvantaged backgrounds: http://t.co/Bu7A9gIo (p 22)

CBI: competitors like Singapore ‘have a clearly articulated approach towards gifted and talented’ (p 25): http://t.co/Bu7A9gIo

Can’t find anti-bullying report re hiding talents cited here: http://t.co/IoBpwbgq but questionnaire is here: http://t.co/Iw8i7kEI

Making progress with my blog’s key documents library: http://t.co/mgsNgTaT – all help and feedback gratefully received

Pro-gifted parental rant against phonics: http://t.co/jFxZjE1g – though last time I checked Joan Freeman wasn’t a ‘literacy expert’

Laws to LGA: ‘We now need to move to a system…That includes stretching the most able’: http://t.co/A6kok5CM

Musical chairs at IGGY: the erstwhile content adviser’s now MD; previous incumbent looks after ‘partnerships’ http://t.co/zmkAqGiR

And IGGY’s staff complement is now 19. Add in the Guardian adverts and that’s a lot of income to generate: http://t.co/zmkAqGiR

IGGY is advertising free trial memberships for Warwickshire students: http://t.co/f2UGrCsY

When I last checked it was FULL free IGGY membership for all in Warwickshire/Coventry schools: http://t.co/aVQohIph

Final post of the year is an in-depth review of IGGY, the International Gateway for Gifted Youth http://t.co/aVQohIph

@naceuk says it’s a partner of @iggywarwick – but IGGY only admits to a water company and the National Grid http://t.co/W4ux6ioB

IGGY is running a better conference this year: http://t.co/0p30xPQ0 – but sadly @GiftedPhoenix is still frozen out of proceedings

I haven’t been invited (again). I presume that @iggywarwick have ‘sent me to Coventry’ (ha ha): http://t.co/XZL2DUA6

Undeterred by Milburn, DfE continues Dux Awards Scheme in 2013 – http://t.co/6Rozafqz – some 20% of secondaries took part in 2012

New Dux Scheme Press Notice: http://t.co/isQcgBWI – Laws now in the lead and the 2013 target’s to involve 2000 schools

The OU-led Future Learn MOOC press release/briefing note: http://t.co/4VCNTvoH – excellent news for school-age gifted learners

DfE Pupil Premium case study features support for Paignton Community College’s gifted and talented programme: http://t.co/VDdgjWk4

Here’s a short but timely new post on High Attainers in the 2012 Primary School Performance Tables: http://t.co/yfzIfAsT

My analysis of high attainers in the Primary League Tables: http://t.co/yfzIfAsT Can anyone source national KS1APS data defining this group?

Gifted Phoenix Blog: 2012 Review and Retrospective: http://t.co/FkqTeBUs

You might have missed: The MENSA ‘carrot’ moment: http://t.co/FPxyBStY plus apology:  http://t.co/I4ar9gVW

Her Majesty gives gifted teenager the Complete Works: http://t.co/aa0wEWDp – Apparently a ‘surreal’ and ‘bizarre’ one-off

Realities and myths of children with high learning potential http://t.co/fsCccc5W

Sutton Trust planning support for gifted disadvantaged with UCL and Kent academies says @conorfryan: http://t.co/1nrcbFuF

Martin Stephen’s doing a gifted education talk in Milton Keynes: http://t.co/sU4hHJjg – when will his research study be published?

The role of technology in gifted education: http://t.co/Tzegj0rA Can you help me to pin down the core issues?

Just completed the Guardian Chat on technology and gifted education, see the record here: http://t.co/hidpNX3r

SSAT is getting back into gifted and talented: http://t.co/6JDH1HD1 – doesn’t say who’s leading the sessions

GT Voice Bulletin February 2013 Edition: http://t.co/97SoK2jJ – Announces upcoming meetings on future of gifted education

“The Department does not collect information about gifted and talented young athletes in schools”: http://t.co/gkct9mPw (Col 332W)

No pictures yet but some fascinating data (I hope) in my new post on High Attainers in the Secondary Performance Tables http://t.co/MqJYgvyJ

More on Ofsted’s upcoming report on our most able pupils: http://t.co/pVytGhNi – and my analysis of the data: http://t.co/MqJYgvyJ

Yesterday’s super-timely blog post looking at the secondary/KS5 performance table data for high attaining students: http://t.co/MqJYgvyJ

I’ve added a brief postscript on Ofsted plans for an imminent gifted survey to the end of this post: http://t.co/MqJYgvyJ

Registration open for 2nd round of Dux Award Scheme: http://t.co/28SHuQSJ – Haven’t yet seen any response to Milburn’s sideswipe

References to inadequate progress by more able pupils are peppered throughout Estyn’s Annual Report 2011/12: http://t.co/y9HozqXk

Elite young footballers burn out before they leave school: http://t.co/ZQzyLQ6w

Koshy and Casey on English Gifted Education: http://t.co/BkyVrvsY – I’d say 80% good and accurate

The very British shame of having a clever child http://t.co/mA1FontH

Whatever happened to Sutton Trust support for highly able

learners? http://t.co/fTuEhAZb (see end). Have I missed an announcement?

Potential Plus (ex NAGC) launches under its new name today http://t.co/oP0uCHHi

Interestingly, Gove’s SMF speech includes a lament that the Dux Scheme has been unpopular: http://t.co/pStqvYp0

Delighted Ofsted’s challenging failure to use Pupil Premium with disadvantaged high attainers http://t.co/L3RW32bU but can’t find the report

Congratulations to Potential Plus UK: http://t.co/8yRj4wGr

Ofsted to prepare landmark ‘rapid response’ report on English gifted and talented education: http://t.co/Oa15N1Ul Wonderful news!

My blog post concludes that upcoming Ofsted survey on highly able will need to look carefully at NC reforms: http://t.co/ZHq7ombE

Can any Ofsted readers explain why there’s been no official announcement of your gifted education survey? http://t.co/Oa15N1Ul

Eastleigh Tory candidate says state schools can’t educate her gifted son: http://t.co/4XAvQY0y and: http://t.co/oNIlvjXQ

More on the ‘son too smart for state school gaffe’: http://t.co/Dkg0oFUl – There’s been a storm on Twitter apparently

Liberals more worried whether Hutchings row will rebound on Clegg http://t.co/JII18Mep while Dale plays the autism card http://t.co/WlYD9pE1

Hutchings gaffe gave Libs/Lab a great platform to set out gifted education policies, but the cupboard is bare http://t.co/Uz5Mt1BJ

Really important reminders in Ofsted’s Pupil Premium Report to target gifted disadvantaged learners: http://t.co/mW1lVIOt

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Kew Gardens 4 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

Kew Gardens 4 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

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Gifted Themes

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Intelligence and Neuroscience

Perfect Saturday reading – an academic paper about Einstein’s brain: http://t.co/vbdaEo2t

Willingham urges caution in the application of neuroscience to education: http://t.co/bzeLKnLM

A blogpost on metacognition: http://t.co/5XHpIZyp

Neuroscience fiction: http://t.co/Az9VOXav

The Neuroscience of Creativity (featuring Greenfield’s work): http://t.co/UPZgi4Jk

Daniel Willingham has begun a week-long series on how neuroscience can be applied to resolve educational problems: http://t.co/WeunWerI

Second in Willingham’s series about positive uses of neuroscience in education: http://t.co/AODoR4VZ

Third of five in the Willingham Neuroscience series: http://t.co/VMNljwqf

4th and penultimate episode in Willingham’s Neuroscience series: http://t.co/YLT3S2Fw

Part 5 and coda to the Willingham neuroscience series: http://t.co/UVwYSe1O and http://t.co/wj86xsH0

On Brains and Brilliance: http://t.co/qFdOD8WS

Math ability requires crosstalk in the brain: http://t.co/8m6m54U9

How education hijacked brain research http://t.co/VGE0xLwv – some governments already considering brain training programmes

Working memory is a better test of ability than IQ: http://t.co/2n43AOqT

Fractionating Human Intelligence (courtesy of @sbkaufman): http://t.co/jej2TNUh

Independent’s summary: http://t.co/Ped8sWza of the Fractionating Human intelligence paper:http://t.co/jej2TNUh

New intelligence-related articles on top-end Flynn effect: http://t.co/6pl4lJEZ and nature of intelligence: http://t.co/DzieZPFW

Are we more or less intelligent than in the past? http://t.co/vdM7x5mF

More on motivation, IQ and maths: http://t.co/w6TDWyBQ

Can Everyone Become Highly Intelligent? (thanks to @SurrealAnarchy ): http://t.co/j9Al6ngN

The Future of Intelligence: http://t.co/h3Da8gtw

On Neuroscience in Education via the OUP Blog: http://t.co/Xx0OCGCI

Csikzentmihalyi – don’t go with the flow! http://t.co/UR4N1IL3

Working memory training does not live up to the hype: http://t.co/zcc1Ok3i

A Genetic Code for Genius? http://t.co/UfD9Zmmy via @WSJ

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Creativity and Innovation

PISA’s Schleicher: ‘schooling now needs to be much more about…creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving’ (TES): http://t.co/xiow0aL2

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body, from @sbkaufman http://t.co/Y5k27xeZ

Current state of play on the Science of Creativity: http://t.co/Kf6TKzdO

The Characteristics of Highly Creative People: http://t.co/0hrdQgjW

Creative Intelligence: http://t.co/XS301wmY

OECD working paper by Lucas, Claxton and Spencer on the assessment of creativity in schools: http://t.co/aviWvXDg

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Twice-exceptional

SEN Magazine feature on dual and multiple exceptionality by Denise Yates of NAGC: http://t.co/9K9MDRoy

Aspie cult goes underground: http://t.co/BdxzpYIv – who wants to be part of a spectrum when you can have your own syndrome?

TES report on segregation of SEN learners: http://t.co/mRzksHcP and link to the new IoE Report it references: http://t.co/9lXq3EuN

Education Select Committee has published uncorrected oral evidence on SEN: http://t.co/NIAea1fV

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Gifted Research

Extensive Gifted Education Research round-up from Ireland: http://t.co/QehveYTd and with a perfect final paragraph!

Full working paper: Conscientiousness Education and Longevity of High Ability Individuals – Savelyev: http://t.co/sGIYiMAf

The impact of motivation (relative to IQ) on achievement in maths: http://t.co/Yhh6kMy7  (summary only)

The impact of high self-esteem on educational achievement is limited at best: http://t.co/5vem3b9u

A pretty definitive study on relationship of self-esteem, academic self-concept and attainment: http://t.co/8mx0KInH

The full text of the Marsh/OMara paper is available free at the bottom of this page: http://t.co/zaUWXRKK

Turkish Journal of Giftedness and Education: Vol 2.2, December 2012 edition: http://t.co/suECf9AW

Willingham on measurement of non-cognitive factors: http://t.co/M2F4D1nN

Lots more on the assessment of non-cognitive variables (Sedlacek): http://t.co/jHW37J63

“High Ability & Learner Characteristics” International Journal of Instruction 2013 http://t.co/arWuGKpF

Willingham on ‘How to Make a Young Child Smarter’: http://t.co/4QEQjEjt and the full article via @sbkaufman http://t.co/e3ND6ZD2

I’m building an open access gifted education research repository on my blog called OpenGate http://t.co/RBeVRW2W Tweet me some links

How friendship networks can influence academic achievement: link to full paper by Blansky et al: http://t.co/r65gUZMg

Does Athletic Success Come at the Expense of Academic Success? http://t.co/m9aHcsIq

The Shift from Cohorts to Competency (Digital Learning Now paper): http://t.co/RYD6csjF

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Gifted Education Commentary

Q. What can we learn from international best practice in gifted education? http://t.co/gH8AgGmx  – A. Much from careful scrutiny

G&T Policy Choices for Schools: http://t.co/i8GXOEAa – Transcript of last night’s #gtie chat

How You Can Help the Genius in the Classroom: http://t.co/Q3kk41Yo

Gifted Exchange encourages discussion on use of gifted learners as peer tutors: http://t.co/nQSQNoxH

Homework torture for some gifted students: http://t.co/dPIAGxDz

Transcript from tonight’s chat, Dear Teacher, My child is gifted and… http://t.co/5EvNn6DZ

Review of last week’s #gtie chat: http://t.co/TURFYnzy – this week’s tonight (Sunday) at 21.00 UK time

G&T School Policy Choices for Schools: http://t.co/Wmql7MDb

A bunch of strategies (13 actually) supporting academic motivation: http://t.co/I86PflCB

New post at GPS: “Teachers Partnering with Parents”: http://t.co/RGu5BiMk

Reading “Gifted Education and New Year’s Resolutions” on Smart Girl Politics: http://t.co/jU1S1Gzx

Interested in gifted education? Some great info in the last few #gtie chats of 2012: http://t.co/A3UgS6mm

Mindsets and Gifted Education: Transformation in Progress: http://t.co/2sipUcnx

The Quill Guy has been posting about gifted and talented writing projects: http://t.co/hVcBBcku

#gtchat transcript of “Special Guest – Rebecca McMillan Director of Online Education at GHF” at http://t.co/PfOt4peI

New blog: ‘Gifted Mathematics – Learn How to be Successful in Mathematics Competitions Worldwide’: http://t.co/8wK2tnch

Advice for New Gifted Education Specialists http://t.co/W0FhNykr

The Gifted Elementary Pupil. How to spot and how to support them: http://t.co/baxUZ5gW

#gtchat transcript: Instructional Strategies for Gifted Education http://t.co/jTzjRoXR

‘Calculating the Return on Investment in Gifted Education’: http://t.co/kM1QNS6p

Using creating challenge and mindmap to consider 2013 activities for Gifted Resources http://t.co/0MszA7Rf

Storify record of #gtchat: Guest, Dr. Joy Lawson Davis and “Diversity in Gifted Education http://t.co/0d2qfoYT

New Post – Differentiating for Gifted students http://t.co/sR4uZUPv

Join the Gifted Education Outreach Corps: http://t.co/AJwVNnzD

What’s Wrong With Being Smart? http://t.co/D5akXKVN More squabbles over the excellence/equity balance in gifted education

STEM is Gifted Education: http://t.co/MsK1Glew

Another scoop.it page: ‘Methods and Materials for Gifted Education’: http://t.co/vpfe9TIX

RT @cybraryman1: My Identifying Gifted sites (see NAGC What is Giftedness): http://t.co/k6SSMgvp

Building a Gifted Education PLN:  #gtchat transcript: http://t.co/ZljpIwc8 and associated blog post: http://t.co/P53zHTkn

Yesterday’s PBL #gtchat transcript: http://t.co/GDxCNQJ4 and blog post: http://t.co/8l9V2mY1

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Giftedness Commentary

Ten myths about gifted students and programmes for the gifted: http://t.co/7kcsCnwK

Transcript of When Parents Push Too Hard http://t.co/qWjlA1vp

Gifted children: How to know if we are pushing too hard: http://t.co/NIdDLVE2

New post at GPS, “A Disturbance in the Force” http://t.co/v39hjkI6 – including reference to UK NAGC name change

Being Gifted is Something to Celebrate: http://t.co/f4FfziWj

Missed our last #gtchat, “When Parents Push Too Hard”? Check out our blog, http://t.co/NOj98yCA

Why Your Gifted Teen May Act Anything but Gifted: http://t.co/dPOUXPK6

Defining giftedness and its goals (from Duke): http://t.co/CU1Zak9s

First-time gtchatters: Check out the the transcript from ‘Building Connections with #gtchat ‘ http://t.co/cyY0bkKf

Transcript for tonight’s #gtie chat. Scroll to 21:00 for start: http://t.co/Ufwhx02F

Gifted, talented: Entitled to be Exceptional (@DouglasEby): http://t.co/8o92TevQ

Why Some Gifted Individuals Don’t Love a Party: http://t.co/iWkqjGrU

Mythillogical: Belief versus the reality of giftedness: http://t.co/rqyJ4Bjt

Global #gtchat – the Year Ahead Storify Transcript http://t.co/OBUURm8n

New post @ our blog! ‘Global #gtchat – the Year Ahead’ http://t.co/tWFiBhIO

Transcript for last night’s #gtie chat:http://t.co/IpwnPdDb  Summary to follow later in the week, I hope!

Gifted Kids at Risk: Who’s Listening? http://t.co/DG4Glhkx

Learn about #gtchat from our guest blog post at MyTownTutors http://t.co/lS0hNzc2

Parenting Gifted Children: http://t.co/zPx5S91J

The Norm Can Blow It Out Its Ear http://t.co/F6IPMd2R #gtie discusses gifted adults

Lance the Myths of Giftedness http://t.co/JQrN3NF7 A response by @peter_lydon to @davidmcw’s piece on talent

Gifted Children and the Growth Mindset http://t.co/kWsufCcW

Can’t join #gtchat at our current time? ‘Like’ our Facebook Page to stay in the loop! http://t.co/pypUZPeK

Transcript for tonight’s #gtie chat: http://t.co/Ib8s8mgP

Transcript of last night’s #gtie chat: http://t.co/5oZf41ZD

When It’s Time to Cut your Gifted Child Some Slack: http://t.co/h6D70pcF

If it’s Wednesday it must be breakfast that makes kids smarter: http://t.co/qXDYrSUx

Do Gifted Kids Want to be Zuckerberg Rather Than Einstein? http://t.co/Yr2YY3uT

‘Let’s Not Call Them ‘”Gifted”‘ from a what looks to be a new Blog on the scene: http://t.co/hOhlpFwP

#Gtchat transcript: Fostering Parent Awareness http://t.co/pdtH8jqX

The term “gifted” sucks in so many ways: http://t.co/pLJifAwt

If Not ‘Gifted’, What? http://t.co/8K1B3NNh

TED conversation on the challenges facing gifted and creative individuals: http://t.co/JOw4YT8q

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Kew Gardens 5 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

Kew Gardens 5 February 2013 by Gifted Phoenix

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English Education – Related Issues

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Curriculum

Government response to Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on STEM: http://t.co/cIejjXH3 deemed inadequate: http://t.co/KJumAHD2

Outcomes of consultation on primary MFL in the national curriculum: http://t.co/9Mqx9HKt  – classical Latin and Greek are new options

Direct link to Chance to Shine school sports survey http://t.co/9ID7CbZP 54% of parents said children got less than 2 hours PE/sports a week

Continued campaign in reaction to marginalisation of dance: http://t.co/y0iGWZDk

Lords Oral PQ on arts in schools: http://t.co/I2Wwi6e1 (Col 1613): Hill says National Cultural Education Plan is delayed until New Year

Pollard bemoans imbalance in new National Curriculum. Cynics might say primary prescription promotes academisation: http://t.co/QE7ibMic

Ofqual Report on 2011-12 National Assessment Arrangements: http://t.co/7wlloAWV – Interesting commentary on new L6 tests at p26ff

Catholic bishops have decided that exclusion of RE from the EBacc affects parents’ human rights: http://t.co/MM3f3JdV

Direct link to Teaching About Christianity in religious education: a review of research – by Nigel Fancourt: http://t.co/8PwmLWnf

The accusation that the Coalition is pursuing a narrow, utilitarian curricular agenda is fertile territory for Labour: http://t.co/RXX2C7xQ

Progress report on school-club sports links: http://t.co/4M9BBqRd (Col 53W)

DfE has let a contract worth £515K to Poetry Archive to run a National Poetry Recitation Competition for Years 10-13: http://t.co/AqGfN0tD

An item on school music notable principally for the author’s pseudonym: http://t.co/Ij8wLrsU – explained here: http://t.co/jbm3SjgH

It’s a moot point whether children’s authors are best placed to decide the National Curriculum Eng Lit canon: http://t.co/WEMcIia8

I assume the Burghes report for Politeia on primary maths will appear here shortly: http://t.co/7D1dGLXe – It’s not there yet

Yesterday’s Burghes paper for Politeia on primary maths: http://t.co/h8aBHgPJ – comparisons with Finland, Japan and Singapore

Story on error-strewn primary NC drafts once more calls into question the process (and people?) used to draw them up: http://t.co/zSYgzxp9

This is a really neat website mapping the NSW curriculum: http://t.co/dG7BIj71 – Can we have one of those?

Summary of new Engineering Council report – wants 100% increase in numbers taking GCSE physics/triple science: http://t.co/qoINAQUT

New DfE/Wellcome evaluation of the Science Learning Centre Network: http://t.co/rblXpZYL – positive but warns against removing core funding

Sounds from Gove increasingly like the draft secondary NC programmes of study won’t issue until the New Year: http://t.co/pGnDi0Oh

No sign of the APPG history report though clearly all the papers have seen it. Sigh. I assume it will be published here http://t.co/pR4wiVsi

National Plan for Cultural Education won’t now be published until 2013: http://t.co/c7PxJ93B (Col 134W)

ACME’s new Maths Report repeats the same old ACME themes: http://t.co/2b4ZEW5h – but where is it? (they’re not the acme of early risers)

Though ACME has managed to publish a KS4 reform consultation response: http://t.co/HzB5Dcud – no tiering is ‘neither feasible nor desirable’

ACME’s Report from yesterday ‘Raising the Bar: Developing Able Young Mathematicians’: http://t.co/RLPhuwys – a ‘critical situation’

Labour’s about to release a new School Sports Action Plan: http://t.co/3O2errSv – the talent development section will be key

Full sport-by-sport breakdown of whole sport plan funding for 2013-2017 including talent development: http://t.co/sD7Qvqxk

“We are putting competitive sport at the heart of the new school curriculum” What does that refer to? http://t.co/hW287h5L

Government’s school sports strategy delayed until New Year by ministerial disagreements: http://t.co/NBqRTVO0

Ofsted School Sport Survey delayed until at least February 2013 by ‘redundancies’: http://t.co/V86nPSYV

Mr Gove’s and Mr Hunt’s Party Games – on PE and school sports (courtesy of @DrDickB): http://t.co/dk8GqYr3

At last some common sense on Seacole: http://t.co/2Lby1vWJ – or else convert to academy status!

Direct link to Nuffield Foundation comparative study: Towards Universal Participation in Post-16 Mathematics: http://t.co/Zu0ZkjA 7

Is this a last ditch effort by Forgan to secure a halfway decent Cultural Education Plan? http://t.co/QmN71XE8 – we’re still waiting for that

Twigg: ‘we’d extend the academies’ freedoms on the national curriculum to all schools’: http://t.co/4kpaQU99 – New? So no NC under Labour?

Ofsted expects to publish its Report on ‘PE in Schools 2008-12’ in February 2013: http://t.co/H5BDhJCT (Col 805W)

Truss’s N of E Conference Speech http://t.co/KrZW7zoz eliminates some lacunae. Commissions Imperial to run 1 year A level teachers’ course

History Curriculum Association promotes its own curriculum to exempt academies and private schools http://t.co/EkWVdsSR

There’s no Ministerial Statement on National Curriculum Review today: http://t.co/O3duSWi4 – so Government misses its self-imposed deadline

TES Editorial is on the Government’s Janus-faced curriculum policy: http://t.co/7BIbFKrP – exactly why we’re still waiting for the PoS!

I do think the SMF speech tippietoes rather unconvincingly past the curricular freedom/content prescription conundrum http://t.co/pStqvYp0

@EducationLabour Could you confirm if my reference to your NC policy here is correct? (Late Skirmishes section) Thanks: http://t.co/BzOaYl6X

Is it official Labour policy that academies’  National Curriculum freedoms would be extended to all schools? http://t.co/BzOaYl6X

Pending imminent National Curriculum announcements here’s Part 1 of a new post retrospecting on June 2012 to yesterday: http://t.co/BzOaYl6X

My blog post from last night tracing the National Curriculum review/EBC story from June 2012 to yesterday: http://t.co/BzOaYl6X

School sports announcement expected in next 2 weeks: http://t.co/deDanhXc – new funding, no ringfence but maybe a ‘recommendation’

During today’s EBC statement debate Labour must clarify whether they would extend academies’ NC freedoms to all schools http://t.co/4kpaQU99

Ofsted on PE: all teachers should raise expectations of more able; offer challenging competitive activities: http://t.co/leEjsReQ

OFSTED on PE: few schools have a balance ‘between increasing participation and generating elite performance’: http://t.co/leEjsReQ

New Education Committee inquiry on School Sports post Olympics: http://t.co/a5DuVNb7  -submit evidence via new portal: http://t.co/0SzrxOWD

Science and Technology Committee Report ‘Educating tomorrow’s Engineers: impact of Government reforms on 14-19 education’: http://t.co/TFHmx13Y

British Psychological Society will shortly publish a report on psychology in schools: http://t.co/RxXAeNdj

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Assessment and Accountability

@warwickmansell fisks this memorandum on the EBC: http://t.co/SkQaWnSw here: http://t.co/rk905N7t chokes on his tea and predicts a car crash

KS Teacher Assessment and Reporting Arrangements (TARA) 2013: http://t.co/pUiWOvLA

If techbac is a performance table measure, doesn’t that pre-empt the upcoming consultation on secondary accountability? http://t.co/BqVceSqO

Ofqual’s EBC letter yesterday: http://t.co/D157XyNI – is likely to delay the promised December consultation on secondary accountability…

Given Ofqual’s EBC intervention: http://t.co/D157XyNI – the case for sorting accountability BEFORE sorting exams becomes much stronger

I wonder if Ofqual’s EBC letter presages adoption of explicitly PISA-linked tests for accountability purposes: http://t.co/D157XyNI

TechBacc proposals = Diploma with a new name http://t.co/vnxSt6ax While we’re on names, check out the working group…

Support materials for the KS2 English Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Level 6 test: http://t.co/az99ksHM

The Baker/C&G Tech Bac and the Government’s performance table Tech Bac http://t.co/Xx80UzDT – Nothing more than a recipe for confusion (TES)

‘Imminent’ secondary accountability consultation likely to feature more focus on KS4 average points scores: http://t.co/vfOGn0an (TES)

Another post-GCSE maths option will shortly be added into the mix: http://t.co/G7z7g9Q7

Secondary accountability consultation also postponed to January: http://t.co/4aSbeuOZ – but is it to be ‘best 8’ GCSEs or EBacc plus?

Evaluation/consultation Report on Key Stage 4/5 Destination Measures, setting out planned changes in 2013: http://t.co/ckiy0zqe

Education Commitee recommends Government takes expert subject-specific advice on removal of tiering from EBC http://t.co/hu5JSl8c (para 61)

Education Committee “We have serious concerns about the proposed timetable for reform”: http://t.co/hu5JSl8c

Introduction of challenging extension papers sounds U-turnish ie exactly the opposite of untiered EBCs http://t.co/lK17XDcq

Updated EBacc FAQs (post reclassification of computer science): http://t.co/2TxRHeYr – interesting to reflect on impact on ‘triple science’

My blog post from last night tracing the National Curriculum review/EBC story from June 2012 to yesterday: http://t.co/BzOaYl6X

TES reports ‘more challenging extension papers’ in GCSE maths and science for A*/A candidates: http://t.co/lK17XDcq

Strong interest in my old post about implications of removing NC levels: http://t.co/Ns1W7cts  – grading’s still an unresolved issue tonight

Summary of KS4 reform consultation responses says 56% thought impossible across all EBC subjects: http://t.co/6INpiWn3

Reports pre-empt A level reform announcement: http://t.co/oV1YUMWc – stand alone AS levels and Russell Group advisory board/annual reviews

Interesting to note 12 month delay on A level reforms: http://t.co/oV1YUMWc – that may suggest same for EBC

Classic UUK press release on A level reform: http://t.co/MQUwnv0K – we agree changes are needed but these aren’t quite the right ones

Gove’s letter on A levels to Ofqual now published: http://t.co/Twsgr4we – but there is as yet no accompanying FAQ on the implications

Interesting idea that A level students should get separate absolute and relative grades: http://t.co/G7VEMoWK

1994 Group is furious too “very little consultation with the sector” AS reform “extremely concerning” http://t.co/4raPlgIv

Number of students from maintained schools and sixth form colleges achieving 3+ A*/A grade A levels by year: http://t.co/gkct9mPw (Col 327W)

The Ministerial Statement on A level reform: http://t.co/sEVMzNur (Col 315) – AS will ‘have same content as A levels but half the breadth’

Direct link to Secondary Performance Tables 2012, just published: http://t.co/DnoiGwyl

SFR02/13: GCSE and equivalent results in England 2011/12 (Revised): http://t.co/uolSYtCw

SFR05/2013:  A level and equivalent examination results in England (Revised): http://t.co/CHrZWpVw

SFR04/2013 – GCSE and Equivalent Attainment by Pupil Characteristics in England: http://t.co/yVesH7KO

Uncorrected transcript of Education Select Committee oral evidence session with HMCI  on 13 February: http://t.co/JFLNCd6IUo

Basically Derby seems to have been doing a reasonable job: http://t.co/M9rAk3fDHc  – did Ofsted expect it to be less successful?

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International Comparisons

You can download Pearson’s Learning Curve Report or read online at dedicated website here: http://t.co/DryiiQmj

Can’t find any evidence that Pearson’s Learning Curve report takes account of high (or low) level achievement: http://t.co/DryiiQmj

Conor Ryan digs beneath the surface of Pearson’s Learning Curve report and rankings: http://t.co/48GFbJB7

Sutton Trust Report on the limitations of international comparisons studies: http://t.co/4G32c8Vv and TES on same: http://t.co/wUMsZ4Dj

Nor does latest Sutton Trust effort on PISA/TIMSS etc properly credit my source blogpost here: http://t.co/1bCZcnq4 Grump, grump

Pleased Sutton Trust is debunking the ‘UK’s problem is solely a long tail’ myth. But footnote ref to my post is wrong: http://t.co/1bCZcnq4

This is the page to store in readiness for publication of TIMSS/PIRLS data at 09.00 UK time on Tuesday 11 December: http://t.co/HS3STosL

Schleicher’s explanation of differences between PISA and TIMSS/PIRLS results is a bit of a punt, to put it mildly: http://t.co/ZDdO5NHH

A reminder that it’s TIMSS and PIRLS publication day – results appear here at 09.00 UK time: http://t.co/HS3STosL

The IEA’s TIMSS and PIRLS reports: http://t.co/XaUH2Bfu

The TIMSS/PIRLS press notice  for completeness: http://t.co/R4QGaEgh – a very mixed bag indeed, so it’s hard to make any political capital

DfE’s Research brief on TIMSS for good measure: http://t.co/7LSsqRok and NFER’s national report: http://t.co/RvzLe8Ii

NFER’s National Report on PIRLS in England: http://t.co/3RjyRjqj – and DfE’s research brief: http://t.co/IP1sAbai

Interesting to compare Duncan: http://t.co/fn93ykfQ and Truss: http://t.co/Lv5PYEnV on TIMSS and PIRLS

Here’s my new post examining the Performance of High Achievers in TIMSS, PIRLS (and PISA) http://t.co/1bCZcnq4

Did you know that England outperformed Finland at the high achievers’ benchmarks in TIMSS and PIRLS? http://t.co/1bCZcnq4

Didn’t look at widening gap evidence, but Asian Tigers have many more high achievers at advanced benchmarks, see http://t.co/1bCZcnq4

Informative article about the impact of PISA on different national qualifications: http://t.co/vcIjiK4Y

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Kew Gardens 6 February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

Kew Gardens 6 February 2013 by GiftedPhoenix

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Social Mobility and Fair Access

BIS press notice links to new Sutton Trust research: tracking decision making of high-achieving HE applicants: http://t.co/bj3scGW4

Sutton Trust is also investing in social mobility via employment in ‘Real Estate’: http://t.co/2ioOT1D3  – An unfortunate Americanism imho

Stupid social mobility article: http://t.co/LGinUX72 – wants to substitute WP for fair access rather than pursuing both

A new Sutton Trust publication celebrating its 15th anniversary: http://t.co/ivcRNCfL

Sutton Trust’s new report on the education of top people: http://t.co/mFLxkTgx and associated press notice: http://t.co/9stidiFS

HEFCE’s revised qualifications list for the ABB high grades quasi-market in 2013-14: http://t.co/UjTACGWQ – Even AAC counts!

Contexualised admissions set to become universal in Scotland: http://t.co/3EPtGeqD – Makes OFFA seem toothless by comparison

TES projects a false dichotomy between Gove’s and Ebdon’s views on fair access http://t.co/z7a9D19d They’re not irreconcilable

Careers England Survey of the Impact of Education Act 2011: http://t.co/RTFSrVOq

A HEFCE/OFFA progress report on a ‘national strategy for access and student success’ http://t.co/u7K4IGa9 – Now you’re talking!

St Andrews says only 220 of 5,572 5th years from Scotland’s deprived areas managed 3 Higher A grades in 2011: http://t.co/aYkcGPBt

What St Andrews actually said about fair access (as opposed to the versions in this morning’s papers): http://t.co/4iwKidYS

Independent careers guidance will be extended to 16-18 year-olds in colleges and Year 8 in schools. from Sept 2013: http://t.co/DN3Mkkjd

Indy’s Lampl fan club attend the 15th anniversary shindig: http://t.co/JQqlmqsf – ends with some U-turn scepticism about open access

Adonis has a point, but perhaps fair access should focus a little more on elite courses rather than elite universities: http://t.co/e2B0mPry

Percentage achieving 2+ A levels at A*/A by ethnic background and by local authority 2008-11: http://t.co/BHnAqnAQ  (Dep 2012-1781)

Gibb and Gove continue the unfair campaign against OFFA’s Ebdon at Oral PQs, prompted by Adonis: http://t.co/oISvurer (Col 580)

‘Not every aspect of the open access scheme necessarily recommends itself to the Government’ (Gove): http://t.co/oISvurer (Col 587)

Uncorrected transcript of Hancock evidence to Education Select Committee on Careers Guidance: http://t.co/Qj3rlnZq

Direct link to the Sutton Trust’s new personal statements research: http://t.co/4Gijd0JM

Ebdon response to Adonis, Gibb et al: http://t.co/EZe0cFkb

Sutton Trust expands its US Summer Schools: http://t.co/V19eno4A – but how do they impact on fair access here?

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission still doesn’t have its full quota of members: http://t.co/ldjDg8w6 (Col 102W)

Direct link to the UCAS End of Cycle Report 2012: http://t.co/XYZzf2ij – looks positive from fair access perspective

What proportion of top students taking up degree courses in the US will return to the UK on graduation? http://t.co/Vjw7svoG

Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Members finally announced; Gillian Shephard is new Vice-Chair http://t.co/QJVef3vw

Series of four HE outreach for WP/fair access toolkits plus supporting material: http://t.co/bxedR5XB

Higher feature on the fragmented nature of HE outreach for fair access: http://t.co/bTo6flR6

Coded praise from Milburn for Gove: http://t.co/WxxswrEp – He’s on the right track provided he acts on my Social Mobility Commission Report

Anonymous insider criticism of Independent v State element of Government’s own social mobility indicators http://t.co/mEn0nrHi

Sutton Trust blog: Moving Up the Great Gatsby Curve: http://t.co/IC7ioPsz

Willetts stresses gender alongside ethnicity/class in fair access: http://t.co/uoH5CyBe but socio-economic disadvantage is the common factor

THE draws attention to new flexibilities in ABB policy to support fair access: http://t.co/lloRPnLr

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Framework Document: http://t.co/15saYkUC (Dep 2012-1939)

McGhee HE access for white working class males article: http://t.co/fRFr8qKI – rather lets selective universities off the hook

Geraint Jones QC is OFFA’s newly-appointed Statutory Reviewer: http://t.co/vCWpaGuQ

Time on Oxbridge attempts to recruit more students from poorer backgrounds http://t.co/YIcjsYMh (via @dlknowles)

HEFCE Grant Letter 2013-14 confirms ‘unrestrained recruitment’ extended to ABB A level grades: http://t.co/XNUkJXvH

Sutton Trust on outcomes of its US summer school: http://t.co/qvF3Cm8x and  http://t.co/DNJgE1vD – You too can attend Oglethorpe University!

HEFCE announces timetable for integrating its Widening Participation Strategic Statements with OFFA’s Access Agreements http://t.co/1xpCwwn9

The fair access debate unfolds in Scotland: http://t.co/aUqzosRX

You can at least read OFFA’s press release: http://t.co/skcnAwCR plus Ebdon commentary in THE: http://t.co/fzjGTkeD

Well OFFA has tried to publish its Access Agreement Guidance for 2014-15, but this link isn’t yet working: http://t.co/yTkZ7K1j

Link to OFFA Access Agreement Guidance for 2014-15 finally working: http://t.co/CLYoHXk5

HEFCE guidance on National Scholarship Programme 2014-15: http://t.co/2qBx4mwD

This postgraduate’s case against St Hughes College Oxford has all the ingredients of a cause celebre: http://t.co/rfaTzYq L

Mail previews the AAB measure due in the Secondary Performance Tables on Thursday: http://t.co/uYv4UpXA

“within the colleges and…managerial hierarchy there remains an undertone of elitism, privilege and exclusivity”: http://t.co/JaqtMUPX

His children’s education was always a ticking timebomb for Clegg given he’s the self-styled champion of social mobility http://t.co/wszD6lBS

Btw, the facilitating subjects A level performance measure must have been shaped to feed this social mobility indicator http://t.co/7sxBg2k9

A second take on the social mobility impact of AS level reform: http://t.co/MavKJODf

Will AS level reforms have a negative impact on fair access and social mobility? http://t.co/l75kNKIO – Conceivably

Russell Group cautions on the facilitating subjects measure in KS5 league tables http://t.co/7BE45tmI – still studiedly silent on AS level?

Sutton Trust adds to calls to a national co-ordinating body for fair access to HE: http://t.co/yPcqu66I – Spot on

HMC’s chair-elect believes only independent schools provide social mobility: http://t.co/R1ic0nTm  I’ve seen some warped logic in my time…

Touche Sutton Trust! John Jerrim questions reliability of international comparisons of social mobility: http://t.co/RskOLdcw

Two elements of the bigger social mobility production function: resilience: http://t.co/A3oqQYhH and cultural capital: http://t.co/RiJmtdlX

Sutton Trust Report on The Postgraduate Premium: http://t.co/45KimL6w and associated Press Release: http://t.co/iJu1sGXC

Since reintroduction of a Cambridge entrance exam won’t help fair access, will OFFA be challenging that?: http://t.co/mEksGmxs

It must be driven by the associated social mobility indicator. Don’t know who ‘invented’ that: http://t.co/7sxBg2k9

The latest UCAS data: http://t.co/Ejg4RBW3 and OFFA’s comment on same: http://t.co/ULtLsUpf

OFFA provisionally estimates Access Agreement support for disadvantaged students at £386.5m in 2011-12: http://t.co/ghqbZW9f (Col 691W)

Free Enterprise Group paper which calls for OFFA to be scaled back: http://t.co/gBuL7MIR

Lampl blogpost alongside the new Postgraduate Premium Report: http://t.co/fj7vTncm

Whatever happened to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission? http://t.co/QJVef3vw – No website, remit or publications timetable

Adjournment Debate on the Oxford postgraduate access case: http://t.co/ICmwzcxM (Col 431)

Education Select Committee has published uncorrected oral evidence on SEN: http://t.co/NIAea1fV and careers: http://t.co/FHVIj4ur

Direct link to Education Select Committee’s deeply critical report on careers guidance http://t.co/k6gWPNoX

Media coverage of OFFA’s as yet unpublished 2014-15 guidance: http://t.co/SJzZpwdl  and http://t.co/Aw2PF7Iw – advocates long-term outreach

OFFA’s 2014-15 guidance apparently announces National Scholarship Programme reforms: http://t.co/bk7mW5dC

UUK responds to OFFA’s 2014-15 Guidance before OFFA has even published it: http://t.co/M9Ac3H3m – someone needs to pull their finger out!

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Disadvantage and Narrowing Gaps

Table showing Grammar School FSM eligibility by school: http://t.co/3jRMXqXK (Col 356W) – almost all are below 5% – scandalous

The EYFSP Attainment by Pupil Characteristics data mentioned earlier: http://t.co/6XJ8Twnx – FSM gap at 19% largely unchanged since 2010

Work and Pensions Select Committee Report on Universal Credit covers progress on FSM passporting at paras 184-195: http://t.co/XBcnmqYJ

As far as I can establish this is all DfE has published about prioritising FSM admissions to maintained schools: http://t.co/c5rKB0Rx

The FSM priority admissions pilot for maintained schools comes out from under wraps: http://t.co/iSgKUEOO

Consultation on Improving Educational Outcomes for Children of Travelling Families: http://t.co/JiZ8Puw9 – but it isn’t really that

Marginally better looked after children attainment gaps: http://t.co/vlpDKIGn don’t yet warrant a Pupil Premium Plus: http://t.co/hu8mkeVr

New series of Pupil Premium evidence notes and case studies from DfE: http://t.co/tOIrgti1

Sounds like FSM in FE are once more off the table, because the cost is prohibitive: http://t.co/pK5vqDS7 (Col WA291)

In 2012-13 1,924,920 pupils attracted the Pupil Premium including 52,370 attracting the Service Premium: http://t.co/RmshihlH  (Col 841W)

Estimated costs of FSM for all families entitled to Universal Credit and those with incomes under £16K: http://t.co/Tvjxplzu (Col 341W)

ASCL call for Pupil Premium funding formula undermined by strange notion of weighting to reflect attainment gaps (TES) http://t.co/flAaErUt

EEF T&LTooklit relaunch: http://t.co/pv9IpMB3 – see ‘latest updates’ tab for what has been added: http://t.co/Y7fhpb1U

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Selection and Independent Sector

Defensive speech from president of the GSA: http://t.co/JWMI3IGx – basically the message to Government is ‘we’ll only co-operate if you pay’

DfE can’t say how many/which schools can select on basis of aptitude in each of the permitted specialisms: http://t.co/yMV3KSjL (Col 373W)

Times incorrectly reporting KCL will open first 16-19 maths free school. Brief (free) Russian report here: http://t.co/CSwe0KwR

KCL release on its 16-19 maths free school http://t.co/llu79Jmf Wolf leads; DfE’s paying development and ’14-16 outreach’ grant

Update http://t.co/isW4kDec  and FAQ http://t.co/qc5gH6vv on 16-19 maths free schools. Now maths only with ‘significant’ HE input

Allegations of cheating in London 11+ examinations: http://t.co/lvUNsYuH

Bucks grammar schools reveal new 11+ designed to to tackle the issue of private tutoring http://t.co/5zujTkUc

So we now have 16-19 maths/STEM academy projects in Norwich, London and Exeter: http://t.co/vNqqUnjt – but there’s funding for 12

Apropos Exeter 16-19 maths specialist school: http://t.co/5v9MNJ2j – my (oldish) post on the planned network: http://t.co/tCZac6YB

DfE press release on Exeter 16-19 specialist maths free school: http://t.co/5v9MNJ2j  –  Unclear why they cite only Kolmogorov as the model

Delighted Boyle’s pushing fair access to GS/faith schools http://t.co/YBMKOhGU  Gatekeepers’ resistance must be overcome http://t.co/9YlNtApA

Direct link: Barriers to Choice in Public Service, calling for support for poor students to enter grammar/faith schools http://t.co/9YlNtApA

DfE wants more bids from universities to open specialist 16-19 maths free schools – it now has a dedicated team: http://t.co/isW4kDec

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Miscellaneous Issues

Here’s Labour’s online policy hub – education and children page: http://t.co/kF6xmWtQ  (Labour list gave out the wrong URL this morning)

Just 3.85% of 1,920 converter academies have sponsor arrangements to raise performance in another academy: http://t.co/Eo0xIg7Y (Col 325W)

I was surprised at how anti-sets this DfE webpage is: http://t.co/8LtuOWi7 – compared with my analysis http://t.co/z6sEtY1e

I strove to find the middle ground here: http://t.co/z6sEtY1e – most of the ‘gifted’ literature is avidly pro-setting…

Feature on ability-based vertical grouping in Y9-11: http://t.co/rMZvMzlG – doesn’t really bring out the downside of ability groups

300 FE colleges to start competing for 14 year-olds: http://t.co/udybYwNi Will that remove early entry barrier?

FAQs on 14-16 enrolment in colleges: http://t.co/lk9ssdL3

A post that asks some serious questions about Futurelearn, the OU MOOC endeavour: http://t.co/NE8uPeGP

Updated FAQ on 14-16 enrolment in colleges: http://t.co/lk9ssdL3 – bit vague on the curricular implications

TES reports on progress towards 14-16 admissions in FE: http://t.co/PdYXAtVW – slow start but could be a big deal in future

New OECD analysis of the Social Benefits of Education: http://t.co/3N86kYXN  Be good to check how recession has impacted on life satisfaction

Updated details of the Dance and Drama Awards (DADA): http://t.co/3yRg9GnM

This LSE Growth Commission report focuses entirely on the ‘long tail’ in discussing human capital investment in schools http://t.co/7V53xnpN

Direct link to new Education Select Committee Report on Home Education: http://t.co/pUuzFV1p

DfE has finally published information on free school proposers here http://t.co/Hfnam8Om  and here http://t.co/XPUfmGB1

FoI response listing academies that have received pre-warning notices and warning notices: http://t.co/ylHKQQW8

Announcement of 3rd year of teachers’ National Scholarship Fund: http://t.co/KeQTOC0Z

The Handbook for the new round of the National Scholarship Fund for Teachers: http://t.co/aNGLEA0G – application deadline is 25 April

Plans to open The Free School Norwich (High School): http://t.co/xlIMM9wE – by the same people that brought you the primary school

Gove letter to Information Commissioner on release of free school data: http://t.co/DLoD5BCz  – not quite giving in gracefully…

A new set of FAQs about Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs): http://t.co/7jBong8h

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Research

DfE review of Research Evidence on Writing: http://t.co/WU7rRALW – concludes that there are still huge gaps in the evidence base

DfE is seeking EoIs in the Evaluation of Teaching Schools: http://t.co/fYPjWijc

New DfE research on Pupils Not Claiming Free School Meals: http://t.co/tOq9uKwR – estimates 200,000 (14% of those eligible) don’t claim

There’s an interesting new Eurydice comparative report on Developing Key Competences at School in Europe: http://t.co/2F8kEHQz

Some of new Education Endowment Foundation grants seem rather bloated: http://t.co/WXvsdO2j – many beneficiaries are the usual suspects too

New DfE research too on the impact of pupil behaviour and well-being on educational outcomes: http://t.co/z7kAhYlB

New DfE research on students taking gap years: http://t.co/ddQyNH5w – they get better degrees but earn less at 30

Final report of DfE-commissioned research into L6 tests is due tomorrow. Contract here: http://t.co/Qys5dWDb

DfE research contract for study of progression of high-achieving pupils to HE also now published: http://t.co/Iz7CA6Bj

New DfE research review of literacy and numeracy catch-up strategies: http://t.co/6qRhxd6x

Direct link to new Jerrim/Vignoles paper: University Access for Disadvantaged Children: http://t.co/S89lyIXI and PN: http://t.co/YycW9neV

CERP article by McNally on detracking plus link to full paper on impact of opening up NI grammar schools http://t.co/7XqevAov

Interesting new DfE research report on the impact of family circumstances and ‘stressors’ on pupil outcomes: http://t.co/NyLJooyO

NEPC’s Annual Bunkum Awards for Truly Rotten Education Research (plus links to their reviews of the winners): http://t.co/8rrQ27ovU3

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GP

February 2013

Gifted Education in Taiwan: Part Two

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Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svgThis is the second part of a two-part post about gifted education in Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (R.O.C.)

Part One traced the history of Taiwan’s national gifted and talented education programme from its earliest origins in 1961/1962 up to the final years of the Twentieth Century.

Part Two picks up the story at that point, tracing developments up to the present day and on either side of the publication in 2007 of the seminal White Book on Gifted Education.

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Before the White Book

 

The Millennial Position

Wu’s article from 2000 ‘Talent Identification and Talent Development in Taiwan’ provides a useful basis for comparison with his earlier publications.

We will continue to use his preferred categorisation into Supervisory, Implementation and Resource issues (though he has much to say about the middle of these and comparatively little to offer on the other two).

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Supervisory

The Special Education Law (SEL) was revised and reissued in 1997 but Wu does not explain in detail how the provisions have been adjusted compared with the 1984 version.

He does mention changes to identification processes:

‘The new regulation…is more flexible and more school-based (rather than national norm-referenced). As the conception of giftedness is broadening and the gifted/talented education programmes are expanding in Taiwan, the identification/assessment procedures will change into a less strict and more flexible system, aiming at developing talents for all.’

There is slightly more information in a brief article in the Winter 1999 World Council Newsletter which mentions that the revised SEL extended the definition of giftedness to include leadership and creativity. It also specified that support should be available for socially and culturally disadvantaged and twice exceptional students.

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Implementation

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Identification: Wu explains that, prior to 1998, students had to fulfil additional criteria to those outlined in the previous section, but it is not clear whether these were introduced by the 1997 SEL or beforehand.

Gifted students needed:

‘A score higher than two standard deviations above the mean on the IQ test; a grade point average in the top 2 % of their school peers at the same grade, or a score higher than two standard deviations above the mean on an achievement test covering major subjects in the curriculum .’

Meanwhile, students identified as mathematically or scientifically talented needed to:

‘Receive a score higher than one and a half standard deviations above the mean on an intelligence test and achievement tests in math and/or science. In addition, they must have a grade point average in the top 1% of their school peers at the same grade in mathematics or science, or have demonstrated an outstanding performance in a national or international competition.’

And arrangements were similar for those with talent in languages. The identification arrangements for the artistically talented seem broadly the same:

‘Students are assessed through their performance…and through a series of artistic or musical aptitude tests. The eligibility criterion for the students talented in dance and drama is mainly focused on performance. Those who achieved awards for distinguished performance in a national or international contest are also accepted.’

The expectation of ‘an IQ test score above the mean’ for artistically talented learners was removed by the 1997 SEL and implemented in 1999.

Wu concentrates on a series of familiar problems and challenges associated with identification. These include: a tendency for parents and teachers to view the procedure as competitive; the selection of very few socially and culturally disadvantaged learners because of the nature of the tests used; and uncertainty over how to deal with high IQ students who nevertheless underachieve in the classroom.

Conversely, there have been issues with high achievers who not have a sufficiently high IQ to be selected into the gifted classes:

‘These children were placed in regular classes but their exceptional grades put pressure on teachers and administrators to get them admitted to the special classes for the gifted. School personnel see the children as gifted and are impressed by their strong motivation and good work skills. After considerable debate within each school, these children are gradually admitted to the gifted classes.’

Coaching is also mentioned for the first time:

‘It has been rumoured that some parents bought the IQ tests used by the schools and coached their child with these exams. This rumour should be viewed with scepticism since it is by no means likely that the average parent could purchase all the different forms of each of the IQ tests and be able to coach the child effectively for such a complex task. Nevertheless, coaching remains problematic because it places a great pressure on the school and the educational administration bureau.’

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Programme Design: Wu says that:

‘Up to 1997, programmes…were three types: programmes for the intellectually gifted, programmes for students talented in specific academic domains, and programmes for students talented in fine arts, music, dancing, drama, and sports.

The goals of these gifted programmes are: to develop the potential of gifted/talented students, to cultivate good living habits and healthy personality traits, and to teach for high cognitive and/or skill attainment.’

This rather implies that the categorisation changed in 1997, but Wu provides no further information. In other respects programming seems broadly unchanged.

Wu’s analysis of the problems associated with programme design and development include a more thorough treatment of the advantages and disadvantages of mainstreaming.

He notes that the perceived advantages of the resource room approach are associated with ‘the affective and social domains’ yet there is little research evidence to support the argument that they are preferable to separate classes in this respect.

He concludes that

‘The decision on the relative efficacy and desirability of each model is still an unsolved problem.’

Other issues are largely repetitions of the earlier set quoted above.

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Teacher development and deployment: Wu rephrases his previous concerns, noting that teachers find it increasingly hard to ‘cope with a class of students with a large appetite for learning and diverse interests and aptitudes’. Their additional responsibilities for curriculum design and development of teaching materials contribute to overload. Many believe gifted education is more challenging but also more stressful. Interestingly ‘they also caution against having expectations that are too high for the gifted’.

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Resource

Wu recapitulates concerns about parental attitudes, which are dominated by the entrance examinations for senior high schools.

‘They feel anxious if the gifted/talented classes have too much curriculum content that is outside the scope of the “standard curricula” or the high school entrance exam. This perception puts inordinate pressure on the schools, and influences the teaching of gifted/talented classes.’

He concludes with plea for a more coherent and flexible system:

‘Further development should be planned and implemented. To ensure the full development of talents in our society, we must not be content with the limited programmes in limited areas on an experimental basis. Multi-flexible gifted/talented education programmes ought to be designed to meet the divergent needs of the students with multi-capabilities.’

Let us see how far progress towards this ideal was subsequently realised.

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Taipei 101 courtesy of Francisco Diez

Taipei 101 courtesy of Francisco Diez

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Incremental Growth and Associated Controversy

There is relatively little freely available material covering the period between 2000 and 2007, which may be attributable – at least in part – to a decline in the relative priority attached to gifted education by the Taiwanese Government.

There is, however, data available – reproduced in Table 3 below – which shows continued expansion, in high schools at least:

Year Classes Students
2001 50 1731
2002 59 2084
2003 79 2476
2004 107 3777
2005 186 5450

 Table 3: Increase in Numbers of Gifted Classes and Students in Taiwanese High Schools, 2001-2005

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Another source reveals that, by 2005, the total number of students attending special and resource classes was 45,537, equivalent to 1.27% of the total student population, and a significant improvement compared with 1997, when fewer than 33,000 learners were supported.

By 2006, this total had further increased to 50,693. However, only 13% of Taiwan’s schools (519 in all) were by this stage providing such programmes.

This increase in the number of gifted classes was not entirely welcomed however. Many educators felt that parental pressure was turning some of the classes into little more than crammers for high school entrance examinations.

The Government’s response was to tighten the identification criteria, reintroducing requirements that students must score two standard deviations above the mean in IQ tests and above the 97th percentile in achievement. (These requirements had for some years been relaxed to 1.5 standard deviations and above the 93rd percentile).

Continuing disagreement over this issue prompted the Government to organise a national conference on gifted education in July 2006 (more on this below).

Such disagreement was embodied in what became a cause celebre

In 2004 Taiwan’s National Education Act was amended to require mixed ability classes in junior high schools. Previously it was permissible to run selective ‘upper level’ and ‘lower level’ classes. However, under the terms of the SEL, schools were still permitted to provide special gifted classes.

Many used this provision as a loophole, redesignating their upper level classes as gifted classes.

In May 2006, four or five counties and cities in central Taiwan (the number varies according to the source) organised a joint entrance examination for over 20,000 elementary school students seeking entrance to these redesignated classes. Central Government declared the examination illegal.

One source quotes different opinions of existing practice:

‘Yang Hsiu-pi…policy director of the National Teachers’ Association, said that fake gifted education classes only caused segregation between students and that more resources were distributed to these classes, so they are therefore unfair to other “normal” students.

Also, the courses for students in the so-called gifted classes are geared towards entrance examinations to high school…’

Meanwhile

‘Baw Chung-miin , chairman of the Parents’ Association in Taipei, said that the association supported gifted education…Gifted students should be distributed into mixed ability classes but for subjects for which they show a particular talent, they can be removed from their normal classes to learn in a special class designed especially for gifted children, Baw said.’

The Minister was quoted in a follow-up story:

‘According to the Act, so-called gifted students must earn that designation after being observed by teachers or other professionals before taking the test…Many students attended cram school classes before taking the joint exams, and therefore failed to fulfil this requirement…The joint examinations also meant that students may end up going to a school far away from home when the ministry promotes attending nearby schools’.

Tu said that although local governments were often allowed to make their own decisions, they had not listened to the education ministry during a meeting early this month…’

In a second report of the affair, Tu offers up a slightly different concern:

‘Education Minister Tu Cheng-sheng reiterated yesterday that he strongly backs the classes for “truly gifted” students but steadfastly opposes the “falsely gifted” students.

He stressed that it is “common sense” that “gifted” students are born and not produced by cram schools.’

In opposing the belief that learners can be coached to become recognised as ‘gifted’, he falls into the opposite error of suggesting that their giftedness is entirely determined by heredity.

There is also an undercurrent of tension between central and local government, with the latter clearly feeling that the former has intervened far too belatedly, is singling them out when other local authorities are doing exactly the same thing, and is trampling on their local autonomy.

The second report concludes:

‘The identification, selection and education of “gifted” students in Taiwan have long been among the most controversial education issues on the island…

Most junior high schools in rural areas tend to separate students into three major categories: 1) “talented students” who are on their way to top-notch senior high schools and subsequently best universities; 2) “average” students; and 3) “abandoned” students, who either quit school after completing the compulsory junior high education or moving on to vocational training schools and junior colleges…

Educators said it is absurd to see that almost every school has a large number of “gifted” students. The MOE should help draw up independent and stricter criteria to discover and identify the genuinely talented teenagers for “special cultivation,” they said.’

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Science and Creativity Become Priorities; Music is Problematic

An insight into the priorities of this period can be gained from the list of projects undertaken by Ching-Chi Kuo, who was Director of NTNU’s Special Education Center from 2001 to 2007. These include:

2000: Identification and Assessment of Culturally Different Talented Students.

2001-2003: Discovering and Nurturing Art Talented Students—The Wu-Lai School Model.

2003-2006: Developing Multiple Intelligences and Problem Solving Ability of Gifted/Talented Handicapped and Non-handicapped Preschool Children.

2006-2008: The Compilation Project on Adjustment Scale for Identifying Gifted Students in Senior High Schools (Co-PI)

2006-2008: The Compilation Project on Adjustment Scale for Mathematic Gifted Senior High School Students

2006-2008: Group-administered Intelligence Test for Primary and Junior High School Students (Co-PI)

Several of these were conducted under the auspices of Taiwan’s National Science Council, and science evidently became a major priority during this period.

In 2003 the Ministry published a White Paper for Science Education.

This states that:

‘Special curricula and evaluation systems should be developed for gifted/talented students…The needs for science learning for gifted/talented students should also be considered’

In 2006 there is a reference on the Ministry website to a ‘Project for Cultivating Outstanding Talents in Science’ but it is not too clear what the project entails.

A subsequent report, dating from 2009 refers to recent decisions to create science streams in senior high schools.

‘Six senior high schools have been approved to open a science stream each this year. There will be 30 people in each class, selected from junior high school graduates or 8th graders qualified to take the basic competency test. No more than five junior high senior students with proven outstanding performance and exempt from the competency test can be accepted to each class….

Senior high schools and universities will coordinate and design the curricula. The programme will be divided into two stages. In the first stage the students will take regular basic science subjects as well as humanity science courses and attend intramural examinations for exempted subjects. The second stage includes mostly specialised disciplines. University professors will be invited to give lectures or students may directly take natural science courses in universities and conduct their own research projects under the guidance of university professors…’

Science remains high up the agenda. The Ministry indicates that advanced science education was a particular priority in 2012, especially in senior high schools:

‘Taiwan has achieved outstanding results in the international Mathematics and Science Olympiad. Domestic mathematics and science competitions are frequently held for senior high school students, and there are also science talent cultivation plans and domestic and international exhibitions to stimulate interest and learning in the sciences.

Key objectives for the year 2012: (i) Continue training students for the Maths and Science Olympiads, and organise similar domestic competitions in mathematics and information technology for junior high school and senior high school students. (ii) Plan to host the 26th International Olympiad in Informatics in 2014. (iii) Continue supporting secondary and elementary education projects in science and cultivation programmes for scientific talent. (iv) Set up science programmes in senior high schools and monitor the effectiveness of the programmes.’

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SunMoonLake courtesy of Allen Hsu

SunMoonLake courtesy of Allen Hsu

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Also in this period the Government published a Creativity White Paper marking the culmination of a series of research projects and initiatives conducted throughout the late 1990s.

The White Paper argued that:

‘To fully unleash the creative potential of the people in Taiwan , it is essential to initiate a thorough analysis and examination of all relevant policies and strategies to determine which actions have fostered and will continue to promote the creative processes and which ones have been stifling innovation. The ultimate goal is threefold: first, to establish an educational policy that will encourage and support creativity; second, to develop and institute instructional strategies to implement creative education; and third, to widen the public’s vision and appreciation for a “creative culture” by arousing their creative interests from an “ecological perspective.”’

The aims included providing ‘an educational environment in which individual differences are treasured and that contributes to a diverse and dynamic learning atmosphere’.

Analysis of the current situation in Taiwan revealed a set of problems not dissimilar to those besetting gifted education:

  • The public understanding of creativity is limited and beset by prejudice – ‘many assume that creativity is an inborn trait and that nurturing efforts are futile’ while ‘parents’ and teachers’ high expectations for short-term academic performance does not encourage innovative learning through trial and error’;
  • Though many educational policies emphasise creativity, they have not been fully implemented. Teacher education and evaluation are limited.
  • The culture of most schools is not conducive to creativity and there is too much emphasis on the outcomes of teaching and learning rather than the process.

The White Paper proposes a series of principles to govern implementation, the first of which is called ‘the all-inclusive principle’ Part of this says:

‘When implementing creative policies, we must focus on both those with special talents as well as on the general public. Of course, we will continue to promote policies that support gifted and talented education and that cultivate special talent, but we must also pay homage to the idea that everyone is born with creative potential; as such, we should strive to maximize the creative aptitude of the general public as well.’

One of the imperatives in the strategy laid out in the White Paper is to ‘Specify Creative Thinking as One of Our Educational Goals and Incorporate this into Educational Curriculum at All Levels’ but there is no further reference to talent development or the interaction with gifted education.

An article by Kuo on Creative Education for Gifted and Talented students (undated but certainly post 2006) outlines the key elements of the Taiwanese ‘creative education development plan’ which consists of ‘8 main projects and 277 sub-projects.

The former are listed: nurturing trips for creative learners; professional development of creative teachers; campus space renewal; ongoing consolidation of creativity cultivation; online learning via database banks; creative campus life in action; international creativity education exchange; and promotion of the concepts of creativity.

According to Kuo, the beneficiaries include:

‘students who come from gifted or talented classes/programmes and students who are not labelled as ‘gifted’ but also show high creative potentials’.

She goes on to describe an enrichment programme based at NTNU to develop ‘young gifted children’s multiple intelligences…problem solving ability and creativity’.

In a 2009 paper ‘Planting the Seeds of Creative Education in Taiwan: Some Examples of Down-to-Earth Programmes’, Jing-Jyi Wu illustrates some of the outcomes of the White Paper strategy, including the so-called ‘Intelligent Ironman Creativity Contest’  introduced in 2004.

The purpose of this team-based competition is to:

‘Prepare future leaders with the following strengths: (a) creative and innovative, (b) cooperative team members, (c) multidisciplinary, (d) able to obtain and use resources efficiently, (e) physically strong and enduring.’

The contest continues to this day.

A paper dating from 2005 by Hsiao-Shien Chen examines the effectiveness of Taiwan’s Special Music Programme (SMP), designed to prepare students with musical talent for subsequent university study.

Talented young musicians are recruited into SMPs at elementary, junior and senior high schools. In the latter case, they must pass auditions and the standard entrance examinations.

In the case of elementary and junior high schools they undertake an IQ test, an ‘academic test’ and separate tests of musical aptitude and ‘musicianship’.

Chen’s review pulls no punches:

‘The results of this study suggest that there be continued investigation of the Special Music Programmes in Taiwan and that they be viewed with scepticism. It would appear that a great deal of government money and teacher effort is expended in the SMPs, but little evidence of this specialised training can be seen after three semesters in a university music programme. Given the scarcity of resources for ordinary K-12 school programmes, one must wonder if the resources devoted to the SMP might be better spent…

Although the SMP functions well in preparing students for advanced music study in certain subjects, the significant effect of an SMP background only shows up for a short period in students’ performance. Besides the main function of the SMP to prepare students for advanced music study, the side effects of the SMP should be a serious concern, too.’

The author recommends that the Ministry should appoint an expert group to review and revise the SMP curriculum, which is over-focused on exam preparation and under-focused on the development of musicianship.

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Taipei 101 courtesy of fishtailtaipei

Taipei 101 courtesy of fishtailtaipei

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The White Book of Gifted Education to the Present Day

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The White Book

The appearance of the White Book was an important watershed in the recent history of Taiwanese gifted education.

The idea may well have originated with Wu. There is a paper dating from 2005 or thereabouts called ‘Development and Perspectives of Gifted Education in Taiwan’, though I can only source a Chinese version with an abstract in English.

The abstract says the paper proposes ‘seven action plans for further development’:

‘(1) enhancing scientific researches and their application; (2) strengthening legislations; (3) keeping the educational avenues fluent for gifted students; (4) enhancing teacher education and empowering GATE teachers; (5) enhancing accountability for results and follow-up; (6) publishing a national “white book” on GATE: (7) establishing a National Research Centre on GATE and initiating an Asian Resource Centre of GATE.’

The following year, the sixth of these proposals became a reality.

The Ministry of Education’s website carries an introduction to the White Book which notes that:

‘The development of gifted education in Taiwan at the turn of the new century has aroused great attention when a lot of gifted classes were formed without adequate evaluation on its content and quality.’ [sic]

This concern led to a Conference of National Gifted Education Development being convened in July 2006, where experts discussed a list of issues: administration and resources, identification and placement of gifted learners, curriculum design and teaching, teacher education and support, counselling, disadvantaged gifted learners and evaluation.

Conclusions were reached following a series of local forums

The White Book captures Conference outcomes and is intended ‘to serve as the reference of local authorities’.

A second note by Kuo offers a similar summary.

An English language version of the White Book itself was published in March 2008. It opens with the note summarised above before setting out the detailed provisions.

These begin with four ‘ideals of gifted education’ which, in brief, are:

  • Every gifted student should have suitable educational opportunities to explore their potential;
  • Gifted students require a differentiated learning environment responsive to their different abilities, interests and aptitude;
  • Gifted education should respond to different types of ability and multiple intelligences – there should be more opportunities for more students, not just the academically able, and this requires support from parents and society as a whole;
  • Gifted education should place equal importance on the cognitive and affective, supporting gifted students to become wise and caring people who can help the less fortunate, tolerate differences and appreciate the achievements of others.

Some of the strengths of the Taiwanese system include the support of ‘government authorities’ (both central and local, presumably), the existence of expert committees securing open and fair identification processes, support from the special education centres established for that purpose and support from research bodies such as the National Science Council.

On the other hand, some weaknesses are apparent, including poor levels of public understanding, limited professional understanding amongst teachers and administrators, insufficiently differentiated curricula and ‘hindrance on multiple assessment and placement plans’.

Seven ‘developmental dimensions’ require attention. In each case the White Book analyses the current state, the obstacles faced and planned strategies to overcome them. It sets out seven action plans to implement these strategies.

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Administration and resources: This includes the organisation and operation of the system, budgetary and regulatory issues and online and community resources, including parental involvement.

National responsibility for administration is vested in the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit, supported by a Special Education Advisory Council.

The Education Bureau of each county and city also has its own Special Education Division, an Advisory Board and a Committee for the Identification and Placement of Gifted and Disabled Students.

Each School has its own Special Education Promotion Committee and/or a Special Education Unit.

Regulation is via the 1984 Special Education Law (SEL), as substantively amended in 1997, but also subject to further amendment in 2001, 2004 and 2006 respectively. There are also several relevant sets of Regulations relating to issues such as the curriculum and teaching materials, acceleration, staffing and so on.

Article 30 of the SEL makes the necessary budgetary provision, requiring that:

‘The annual special education budget of the central government shall account for no less than 3% of the sum allotted to education. The annual special education budget of the local governments shall account for no less than 5% of the sum allotted to education.’

A table is supplied showing that gifted education has been allocated around 5% of the annual special education budget in the years 2005-07.

The total annual gifted education budget varies from $NT 307m to $NT 334m (roughly £6.67m to £7.16m). A note says these total include ‘the personnel and administration expenditures in Public senior high schools’.

The description of community and internet resources is more qualitative, outlining the support available through libraries, museums and universities, a range of competitions and science fairs and a smattering of websites.

The text says ‘it is desirable to have more websites in the future specifically designed for gifted education’.

A few gifted education development organisations have been established by parents, some of whom serve on local special education advisory boards and school-based parents’ associations. Additional support is provided through the centres established at normal universities and teachers’ colleges and also local gifted education resource centres.

The key problems identified include: too little human resource, ‘lack of clear regulations and policies’, inadequate funding, limited distribution of community and online resources, limited parental co-ordination and too few research institutes and resource centres.

Six actions are proposed to address them:

  • Amend the Special Education Act and related regulations to promote gifted education.
  • Enhance professional knowledge and administrators’ implementation strategy.
  • Increase the proportion of the total education budget allocated to gifted education.
  • Organise the involvement of experts, professionals, teachers and parents in supporting gifted education development
  • Support the creation of more parents’ groups and
  • Establish a National Special (Gifted) Education Research Development Centre and support local government to establish more resource centres for gifted education.

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Identification and placement: This incorporates identification criteria and tools, professional involvement and processes, and continuity across different sectors.

We learn that the SEL as amended has replaced the original tripartite distinction between general intelligence, scholastic aptitude and special talents.

There are currently six categories of giftedness: general intelligence aptitude, specific academic aptitude, visual and performing arts, creative and productive thinking, leadership ability and other aptitudes.

There is provision for the early entry of gifted students to kindergarten and some areas are trying out accelerative approaches, but there is so far no special identification processes for students displaying creativity, leadership and other special talents.

There was a move to:

‘include multiple intelligences, to lower the threshold of gifted children identification to 1.5 standard deviations (SD) above the mean, instead of 2 SD, and to depend more on the observation and professional judgment of experts than on objective tests.’

But, as we have seen, the use of gifted classes as a way to continue selective groups when mixed ability grouping was imposed in 2004 eventually led the Government to reintroduce a requirement that gifted learners should have scores on aptitude tests that were 2 standard deviations above the mean.

In reaction to ‘the implementation of ability grouping under the disguise of gifted education’ the Government has also ruled that separate gifted classes should be confined to those with talent in visual and performing arts. Others attend ‘distributed gifted classes’ (presumably identical to the original resource room model).

Local authorities are also expected to provide a menu of additional opportunities including school-based programmes, summer and holiday sessions, competitions and mentors.

Key problems identified include: poor understanding; inadequate human resource, assessment instruments and assessment plans; lack of co-ordination and the absence of systematic identification of those with creative, leadership and special talents.

Seven strategies are identified to address these issues:

  • ‘Advocate the ideal and spirit of gifted education through media’;
  • Draw up codes to govern identification processes;
  • Provide training for those engaged in identification;
  • Develop assessment instruments and standards to improve the reliability and validity of assessment;
  • Create ‘multiple placement paths’ and improve continuity of provision between sectors;
  • Establish acceleration guidance; and
  • Develop processes for identifying students with creativity, leadership or special talents.

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Curriculum and project design: This includes differentiation, providing curricular continuity and a flexible educational environment. Responsibility is currently vested mainly in the teachers of gifted classes.

They typically embellish the standard curriculum for the relevant grade and subject, adding enrichment activities, independent study and options for acceleration. There is increasing diversification but little development so far for creative, leadership and special talents.

Problems identified include poor co-ordination, poor curriculum design, over-reliance on didactic teaching, limited focus on creativity and affective issues, poor quality teaching materials, inadequate provision for pre-schoolers and limited attention to curricular continuity across sectors.

Four strategies are proposed:

  • Establish a ‘differentiated curriculum and adaptive educational environment’;
  • Support school-based programmes to provide differentiation and a suitable educational environment;
  • ‘Create a digital learning platform for gifted education to facilitate exchanges of teaching materials, resources, and other support of gifted education’; and
  • Support pre-school enrichment programmes for gifted learners.

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Teacher training: including accreditation and professional development. Following legal changes in 1999, the majority of gifted education teachers received specialist pre-service training. It is now possible to graduate with a major in gifted education.

Teachers require 40 credits for certification compared with the 16 originally stipulated and this includes 20 credits related directly to gifted education.

However, further reforms provide for all teachers to pass a certification test and the certification rate is relatively low amongst gifted education teachers: 42% in elementary schools and just 6% in secondary schools. Only 14 of 26 applicants working in gifted education successfully passed the certification test in 2007.

A recent over-supply of teachers has significantly reduced recruitment. Those who are recruited tend to be selected on the basis of their subject specialism.

Professional development is provided through seminars run by local authorities and universities, an in-service masters degree and a range of other graduate programmes. Most teachers have to pay their own fees.

There is therefore a gap between the training provided and the expertise required, too few teachers with gifted education certificates and too few professional development activities.

Four strategies are set out:

  • Provide ‘multidisciplinary training’ for gifted education teachers;
  • Strengthen the professional standard for gifted education teachers so that it meets the demands of the role;
  • Promote increased professional development and networking between gifted education teachers;
  • Develop an ‘empowerment programme’ so generalist administrators can improve their professional knowledge in gifted education.

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Counselling and follow-up monitoring: More attention is paid to cognitive than affective needs. However:

‘Many gifted students have unique mal-adjustment problems, as a result of perfectionism, unbalanced physical and psychological development, and anxiety due to stereotyped expectations.’

Most counselling is provided by teachers other than the gifted education specialists or by school counsellors. Most schools monitor their gifted students until they leave. More focus is required on cross-phase studies. The proposed strategies are:

  • Provide more counselling and careers advice courses.
  • Develop ‘social service programmes’ for gifted learners
  • Develop and maintain a database to support ‘systematic guidance’.

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Disadvantaged gifted education: The importance of gifted education for disadvantaged learners was first recognised a 1995 National Gifted Education Conference. Guidelines were initially introduced in the 1997 SEL and the Ministry of Education subsequently introduced ‘a series of policies and strategies’.

In the Taiwanese context, ‘disadvantage’ includes twice-exceptional students as well as the socio-economically disadvantaged. The former are sub-divided into those with a sensory or physical disability and those who are cognitively disabled.

In 2007, there are just 97 students in these two sub-categories, 24% were hearing impaired, 22% physically disabled and 13% autistic.

The socio-economically disadvantaged include:

‘Those who possess giftedness but live in remote or aboriginal areas, from poor families, or foreign students lacking certain cultural stimulation, or students with parents possessing different mother tongues, and so on.’

The 2007 data records 129 ‘aboriginal gifted students’ and 48 students with foreign parents. The clear majority in both categories have been identified for talent in visual and performing arts.

The problems identified are inadequate understanding of gifted learners in these groups and limitations of assessment tools, administrative support and professional development.

The strategies proposed are to:

  • Advocate for disadvantaged gifted education and better services for disadvantaged students.
  • Develop ‘multiple identification tools and placement procedures’.
  • Strengthen support systems, provide consultation services and improve teachers’ knowledge and counselling of these groups.

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Evaluation and supervision: There has been a long history of evaluation, much of it set out above. As for supervision, the 1997 SEL provided for at least biennial assessment by local authorities of schools and by central authorities of local authorities. Local authorities have been particularly active.

In light of the problems with ‘phantom’ gifted classes, the Ministry decided to include the effectiveness of gifted education in ‘the assessment index of special education’.

But outstanding problems include and absence of policies, limitations of assessment indices and lack of a self-evaluation process.

Three strategies are set out:

  • Introduce ‘institutionalised assessment and effective supervision’.
  • ‘Regulate assessment indices’ for various gifted education categories and
  • Promote school self-assessment including ‘a sanction system’.

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These seven strategies are outlined in slightly revised within the seven parallel action plans. Four of the actions are identified as urgent priorities:

  • ‘Encourage the local educational authorities to establish their own Gifted Education Resource Centre’
  • ‘Have Special Education Programmes at Normal Universities or Educational Colleges conduct gifted education teacher training workshops in order to increase the percentage of certified teachers’
  • ‘Increase the percentage of gifted education budget’ and
  • ‘Increase the subsidy to local education authorities to improve the facilities of gifted classes.’

An annex divides the actions into short-term (2008-09); intermediate (2010-11) and long-term projects (2012-13).

 

white book action plan Capture

 

A 2008 paper from the still ubiquitous Wu carries an English language abstract  mentioning three statutory changes introduced at this time: raising the test threshold from 1.5 SDs above the norm back to 2.0 (as mentioned above); retreating from separate special classes for gifted learners in favour of the pull-out model of provision; and applying screening and identification processes only after pupils have been admitted to their schools (presumably so that they do not become de facto admissions processes).

Wu notes that these adjustments have led to ‘operational problems’ and provide only limited flexibility. He argues that the future success of Taiwanese gifted education is dependent on balancing excellence and flexibility – and suggests that some of the existing regulations need to be reviewed and/or amended.

Conversely, other commentators prefer to stress the progress made already towards greater flexibility, citing the impact of articles 4, 28 and 29 of the SEL as amended in 2008, which further expanded the definition of giftedness as set out in the White Book and introduced additional provision for grade-skipping.

An insight into the implementation workload can be gleaned from an October 2011 report in the World Council’s Newsletter in which Ching-chih Kuo reveals that there are dozens of strategies and plans requiring implementation: twenty-six have been commenced or completed but others have not yet begun!

Kuo’s own website reinforces the sense of action plan overload. Her long list includes: Sub-project to Gifted and Talented Education Action Plan: Identifying and Serving Gifted Students with Disabilities and/or from Culturally Diverse [Backgrounds];  The Development Plan for Gifted Education;  Sub-project to the Development Plan for Gifted Education: Progress and Perspectives;  An Action Project to Assess the Outcome of School-based Gifted Education Practice;  An Action Project to Develop Measures of Identifying and Serving Gifted Students with Disabilities and/or Social-economic Disadvantages;  An Action Project to Develop the Follow-up System for the Gifted (Co-PI);  An Action Project to Regulate Essentials on the Identification and Placement of Gifted Students;  and An Action Project of School-based Gifted Education Service

By 2011 there are plans to ‘reshuffle’ the Ministry’s Special Education Unit to secure better performance. A new large-scale projects is also mentioned:

‘A Balanced Development Plan for Different Categories of Gifted Education…the Department of Special Education of National Taiwan Normal University is entrusted with the responsibility of developing a long-term project for 2012-13 and compiling suggestions to prepare another six-year action plan for gifted education from 2014 to 2019 to plan for a golden decade of gifted education in Taiwan.’

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The dawn of a small fishing port dawulun keelung taiwan courtesy of harry taiwan

The dawn of a small fishing port dawulun keelung taiwan courtesy of harry taiwan

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A Local Perspective from Kaoshuing City

The material available online includes an interesting commentary by Su, a gifted education administrator in Kaoshuing City’s Bureau of Education.

Kaoshuing is a city in the South-west of Taiwan with a population of almost 2.8 million. Formerly a special municipality in its own right, it merged with Kaoshuing County in 2010 to create a larger administrative unit.

Su’s paper on Gifted Education in Kaoshuing City (or Kaohsiung City) was amongst those presented at the 10th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness, hosted by Singapore in July 2008.

Unfortunately the English is not easy to follow but it describes the development of gifted education provision and services within the City, especially over the period from 2004 onwards, and reflects on the implications of the White Book action plans.

Following an inaugural National Gifted Education Meeting in 1996, the City’s Education Bureau published a framework for gifted education in junior high schools in 1997 and in elementary schools the following year.

By 2003, the City had introduced a ‘Special Education Consulting Commission’, responsible for development planning, overseeing an annual work plan for special education and handling complaints. A parallel ‘Commission of Assessment and Entry Tutoring’ was also formed and several schools also set up their own ‘Special Education Promoting Commission’.

In January 2004, the Education Bureau also established a dedicated Special Education Department. The gifted education section was given responsibility for a set of learning and resource centres including a ‘high achievement education resource centre’ based in Kaohsiung Junior High School which was established in 2005.

The Bureau’s gifted education team consisted of two specialists and three support teachers, but additional staff are attached to the resource centres.

By 2008, the City’s gifted education provision is offered in four forms: early enrolment, a ‘general intelligence gifted resource project’, telescoped or compacted study and support for artistically talented young people.

The ‘general intelligence gifted support project’ selects pupils in the second year of primary school and in junior high school. The telescoping options apply in elementary and junior high schools and include:

‘‘exempt curriculum’, ‘speeding individual subject’, ‘jumping subject’ and ‘speeding whole subjects’, in order to earlier select curriculum higher than senior high school year 1 in a total of 7 categories.’

By 2004 there were 156 gifted classes in the city catering for almost 5,200 learners. By 2007 this had increased to 180 classes for almost 6,400 learners and some 320 teachers were engaged in this work, the majority in elementary schools.

An increase in the number of junior high schools has resulted in a shortage of qualified specialist teachers in that sector. There are no qualified specialists leading classes for artistically talented learners.

The Bureau partnered with the Special Education Department at National Kaohsiung Normal University in 2007 to run a course for 40 gifted education teachers (and a similar course for teachers of ‘art talent classes’ is also planned).

The budget is relatively small – $NT 3m – in 2007, but from 2008 significant additional funding ($NT 15m) is being made available for projects implementing recommendations in the White Paper for Creative Education.

The paper identifies a number of problems with current provision and strategies to address them. These include:

  • Securing increased professional support within the Education Bureau;
  • Finding a more efficient assessment model (because confidentiality cannot be maintained, the Bureau is having to invest in new test items each year);
  • Maintaining flexibility within the gifted education curriculum in the face of parental expectation that it will be exclusively accelerative;
  • Enabling staff to work collaboratively on gifted education curriculum development;
  • Increasing the supply of qualified gifted education teachers and increasing the available funding.

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Further Progress with Arts and Sports

An article published in the Taiwan Review in 2010 provides a relatively thorough picture of provision mid-way through the White Book reforms, while also foregrounding a growing emphasis on talent development in arts and sports.

It notes that, at March 2010, there were 26,949 students identified for artistic talent, compared with 10,740 for scholastic aptitude, 6,446 for general intelligence and 265 for ‘other special talents’.

The article gives an insight into the latter:

‘A MOE [Ministry of Education]  subsidy programme will spend about NT$2.73 million (US$87,000) this year on local governments’ gifted education efforts aimed at other areas where students display special talent such as leadership, information technology, card-playing and the board game Go. The Affiliated High School of National Chengchi University in Taipei, for example, uses Go as one means to identify gifted students and even offers admission to the school based on a student’s Go ability.’

A further 32,000 were enrolled in specialised sports classes in 2008/09, though these do not count as gifted under the terms of the SEL and are the responsibility of the Ministry’s Department of Physical Education.

This shift away from a narrow concept of giftedness is seen as part of a growing trend towards diversification. While separate classes for gifted learners are no longer permitted by the legislation, this does not apply to sports and arts classes.

However there is no longer special funding for such classes on the arts side. There is also pressure to establish a separate unit to verse the arts classes.

Now that different abilities are being recognised, the standard entrance examinations for senior high school and university are being supplemented – even replaced – by other forms of assessment.

Applicants for senior high school sports classes can rely on ‘rankings at major competitions’ as well as tests of ‘general physical capability and specific skills’. Applicants for musical classes can also apply on the basis of rankings in national and regional competitions. Admissions policies have become more flexible in recent years.

Turning to sports, the Ministry of Education reportedly introduced a three-year project in 2009 to develop sporting talent through a regional infrastructure with a budget of $NT 100m. One of the aims is to establish sports classes at elementary and high schools. Students learn about sports medicine, sports nutrition and injury prevention as well as developing their sporting talents.

The article also focuses on SEL provisions permitting gifted students to enter a school early or complete their course more quickly. It features a student who performed well in the 2010 Asian Physics Olympiad. This enabled her to enter university early having already been accelerated at a younger age, skipping a year at both elementary and junior high school.

Such provision is exceptional however and the Director for Special Education at the Ministry is paraphrased:

‘For gifted students, access to higher-level and a bigger range of courses at school is better than skipping grades. In the past, some gifted students have had problems fitting in with older classmates and might have felt shy or isolated. “It can be important for students’ social development to be with classmates their own age.”’

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The Size of the Programme

The Ministry website provides a breakdown of the gifted education statistics for 2008. During that academic year there were a total of 1,820 classes for gifted learners, 694 in elementary schools, 707 in junior high schools and 419 in senior and vocational high schools.

Of the total, 346 classes were for students with general intelligence, 352 classes for those with scholastic aptitude, 1,103 for the artistically talented (500 in music, 445 in art and 158 in dance) and 19 for those with other special talents.

These classes catered for a total of 44,970 students, 16,869 in elementary schools, 17,510 in junior high schools and 10,591 in senior high and vocational schools. Two graphs show how these figures have changed since 2004.

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2004-08 graph one Capture

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2004-8 graph 2 Capture

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Unfortunately, more recent data available in English is not always comparable.

We have seen above that, in 2010, there were 26,949 artistically talented, 10,740 deemed to have scholastic aptitude, 6,446 with general intelligence and 265 with other special talents. This gives a total of 44,400, very slightly fewer than the 2008 total.

But another source claims that:

‘In 2010 in Taiwan there were more than seven thousand K–12 schools educating three million students, including a gifted population of up to 150,000 students.

The Ministry’s own summary statistics for school year 2011 (ending 31 July 2012) indicate that there were 29,911 students designated as gifted during that period:

  • 11,017 at primary schools
  • 8,479 at junior high schools and
  • 10,415 at senior high and vocational schools.

But a different Ministry publication gives the total number as 38,080.

It may be that some of these totals exclude certain categories of gifted and talented students, but such distinctions are not made clear.

Nevertheless, it would appear that the total number of gifted and talented learners in Taiwan’s schools is now declining compared with 2008. This may well be attributable – at least in part – to the stricter identification criteria introduced after the difficulties experienced in 2006.

Another source provides a helpful list of the schools in the Taipei area which operated classes for the academically gifted in 2011.

This names thirteen senior high schools, but a conference presentation provides a different list for the whole of Taiwan containing 36 senior high schools all told, only nine of which are in Taipei City.

 


gifted classes in Taiwan senior high schools Capture

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One of the statistical sources above also lists key achievements in special education over the decade 2002-2012 and priorities for the next decade. For gifted education, the retrospective achievement is summarised thus:

‘Promotion of multiple education alternatives for gifted students so as to fully develop their talents’

And the priority is to:

‘Plan 2012-2017 promotion programme for gifted students’,

so a slightly different 5-yar plan to the one envisaged by Kuo.

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Contemporary issues and problems

The most recent press reports have focussed on two or three issues that are clearly exercising the Taiwanese government. In particular, there is evidence of a growing interest in the full spectrum of talent development and concern about a ‘brain drain’.

In April 2012, the Government announced that it would publish a White Paper on Talent Development within a year, following an internal review of Government policies.

Six months on, an editorial in the Taipei Times analysed the root of the problem:

‘Recently, the decline of Taiwan’s political and economic status in the international community has become a hot issue. Not only has Taiwan dropped to last place among the four Asian Tigers, but it is also lagging behind many other Asian countries. Some have concluded that the problem lies in Taiwan’s dearth of talent, a situation that has reached worrying levels.’

It suggests that Taiwan is producing too many students with academic skills, whose parents want them to become doctors, businessmen or engineers. They do not encourage their children to develop ‘diverse interests and talents’.

Furthermore, society overvalues status and wealth, particularly when embodied in rich businessmen and government officials.

Thirdly, ‘Taiwan’s educational leaders lack the confidence and refuse to believe that they can train world-class talent.’ Many Taiwanese young people go to study abroad rather than attending domestic universities. They are unlikely to return because of ‘Taiwan’s economic downturn over the last few years’.

Graduate starting salaries have not increased for a decade and are not competitive with opportunities abroad. Many are relocating to mainland China. The country also needs to improve ‘the quality of working and living environments’.

The author suggests that Taiwan must build its identity in the international community and create an environment that will attract international businesses to the country (as well as encouraging Taiwanese businesses that have relocated to the PRC and elsewhere to return).

It will be interesting to see whether these ideas feature in the 2013 White Paper.

Meanwhile, another article, this time in the Taiwan Review, provides an update on progress towards extending compulsory education to the end of senior high school, expected to be introduced in 2014.

Interestingly, part of the reform is to reduce the emphasis on examinations governing entry to senior high school.

‘Under the current BCT [Basic Competency Test] scoring system, students receive a percentage ranking between 1 and 99, and in many cases that score is the only factor schools consider when admitting students. Results of the new test, however, will only be ranked as highly competent, competent or not competent. In addition, that new ranking will only constitute a maximum of one-third of the overall score by which schools evaluate prospective students, if such a score is necessary.’

The intention is to shift gradually to a point where exams are retained only for those students with ‘advanced academic ability’ or talent in arts or music. By 2019-20, only 15% of admissions to senior high schools and junior colleges will involve examination.

Some of the most selective schools under the current system are understandably reluctant to change:

‘The high ranking of Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, for example, gives it the ability to select “elite” students… Jianguo students have expressed concerns about the learning difficulties that could be encountered in classes in which students have a wide range of academic competence. “Some of the new students may be unable to recognise even the 26 letters of the English alphabet,” another Jianguo student said on a television news programme.’

However, the new approach is expected to reduce the pressure on junior high school students to gain admission to a ‘star school’.

Meanwhile, the issue of stifling exam pressure seems to continue to exert undue influence and several of the other old problems – cited above – seem not yet satisfactorily resolved.

The abstract of a recent paper by Kao carried by the Roeper Review (the full article costs £23.50 to access) appears to confirm this:

‘This study examines the current problems affecting Taiwan’s gifted education through a large-scale gifted programme evaluation. Fifty-one gifted classes at 15 elementary schools and 62 gifted classes at 18 junior high schools were evaluated… Major themes uncovered by this study included exam-oriented instruction, lack of quality affective education, heavy burdens for teachers, enormous pressure for students, gifted art programmes as camouflage, and the failure to utilise resources in the community. These problems could further be consolidated into an overarching theme, overemphasis on exam performance. Discussions and implications addressing these problems are provided in the hope that Taiwan’s and other countries’ gifted education can benefit from them.’

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Final Words

The history of gifted education in Taiwan spans a period of over 50 years. At one level it is conspicuously successful: national performance in international comparisons studies and the various Olympiads amply demonstrates that high achievement is pronounced and embedded, especially in maths and sciences.

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Taiwans Performance in Olympiad

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But, paradoxically, the cause of Taiwan’s success is also the root of the problems that continue to beset its gifted education programme – and indeed its wider education system. The Taiwanese government has been wrestling with these issues determinedly for several years. There are signs of progress, but progress is slow because these reforms are challenging deep-seated cultural beliefs.

Meantime, a comparative economic downturn appears to be stimulating further policy development in reaction to the additional problems that it is generating. How it will impact on the framework of Taiwanese gifted education remains to be seen.

But the remainder of this decade promises to be a significant phase in the continuing evolution of Taiwan’s gifted education programme – possibly even redolent of the apocryphal Chinese curse. Will they finally achieve equilibrium between excellence and diversity, or is that a bridge too far?

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GP

February 2013

Gifted Education in Taiwan: Part One

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This post describes the development and current operation of Taiwan’s gifted education programme. It completes a tetralogy of studies of gifted education in the ‘Asian Tiger’ economies.

Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svg

The UK’s attention is arguably over-focused on Hong Kong and Singapore, two relatively small English-speaking jurisdictions with which we have close political and historical ties. South Korea – a much larger country – is sometimes tacked on as an afterthought, but Taiwan is the oft-neglected fourth member of the club.

It performs creditably in PISA rankings but is outstanding in TIMSS (and to a lesser extent PIRLS). My own analysis suggests that Taiwan is particularly strong at the advanced benchmarks for high achievers in these studies, especially in maths and science.

Although there are many freely available online materials about Taiwanese gifted education, few are in English and those that have been translated are often difficult to understand. Recent comprehensive studies are particularly hard to find, with several inaccessible behind paywalls or because of the continuing problems with ERIC.

The post is divided into two parts:

  • Part One sets out the background and charts the historical development of gifted education in Taiwan during the Twentieth Century;
  • Part Two reviews more recent developments, immediately before and after publication of the pivotal White Book in 2007, highlighting several policy priorities and problems that the programme is seeking to address.

For the sake of consistency I have anglicised the American spellings in quotations.

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Taiwan in a Nutshell

Taiwan is an island country in East Asia, located 110 miles off the coast of mainland south-east China, east of Hong Kong and north of the Philippines.

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Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw

Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw

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It consists almost entirely of the Island of Taiwan, once called Formosa. The state’s official name is the Republic of China (often shortened to R.O.C.), though the country is sometimes called Chinese Taipei, to distinguish it from the People’s Republic. The largest city is New Taipei City.

The R.O.C. was initially established on the mainland in 1912, but relocated to Taiwan when the People’s Republic was formed in 1949. The post-war Chinese Nationalist Government was eventually succeeded by a democracy.

The President is head of state and appoints a cabinet (the Executive Yuan) including a first minister (the Premier).

The Legislative Yuan, a single house legislative body, has 113 elected seats.

Taiwan has an area of 16,192 km2 and a population of approximately 23.3 million making it the 51st most populous country in the world. Some 15 million of the population are aged 0-14.

The economy is the world’s 19th largest. Per capita GDP (PPP), at $38,486, is broadly comparable with the UK’s.

The country is divided into five Special Municipalities, three Provincial Cities and 14 Counties..


taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk

taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk

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Taiwan’s economic transformation is described as the ‘Taiwan Miracle’. Consistently high rates of economic growth over the past 30 years, on the back of technological development and strong exports, have rapidly increased its wealth. Investment in human capital has been critical to its success.

The currency is the New Taiwan Dollar. One thousand $NT is worth about £20 (almost $US 35).

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Taiwan’s Education System

Responsibility for education in Taiwan rests with the Ministry of Education. The incumbent Education Minister is Wei-Ling Chiang.

There are currently nine years of compulsory education, comprising six years at primary (elementary) school (Primary 1-Primary 6) and three years at junior high school (Forms 1-3).

Senior high school (Forms 4-6) is presently non-compulsory but will become so from 2014.

Teachers are trained in specialised teachers’ colleges or on university-based courses. The same institutions provide professional development.

In the 2011 school year (August 1 2011 to 31 July 2012), there were:

  • 8,100 schools in all
  • 2,659 primary schools educating 1.46m learners and employing over 98,000 teachers
  • 742 junior high schools with 873,000 students and 51,000 teachers
  • 336 senior high schools with slightly over 400,000 students and over 36,000 teachers
  • 155 vocational schools for 366,000 students employing almost 17,000 teachers
  • 114 comprehensive senior high schools (accommodating academic and vocational tracks) with 84,000 students and
  • 188 pilot combined high schools for junior and senior high school students (the number of students and teachers is not given).

The Ministry website offers a different classification of senior high schools, distinguishing ordinary and comprehensive schools from ‘magnet’ and ‘experimental’ institutions. There are also junior colleges, with either 5-year or 2-year programmes. The 5-year providers admit students on completion of junior high school.

In anticipation of the extension of compulsory education, the Government announced in 2011 that education expenditure would increase to 22.5% of the national budget, adding a further NT$20bn.

The total education budget in 2011 is said to be NT$ 802.36 billion, or 5.84% of GDP (net of funding for private education) but another Ministry source says that:

‘In the 2010-11 academic year, the total education budget was NT$652.3 billion, of which preschool education accounted for 3.44%, primary education accounted for 26.52%, junior high school education accounted for 14.61%, senior high school education accounted for 16.05% (high schools 10.60%, vocational schools 5.45%), higher education accounted for 38.70% (college 0.77%, universities 37.93%), and 0.69% went to other institutions.’

The ROC Yearbook’s Chapter on Education provides useful background, offering this helpful diagram of the education system.

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Taiwan education system - from ROC yearbook

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Elementary and Junior High Schools

The commentary on the compulsory education sector notes that class sizes at elementary and junior high schools are currently 25 and 32 respectively, giving pupil-teacher ratios of 15:1 and 14:1 respectively. Primary and junior high schools are operated at district level and take pupils from a designated area.

The curriculum includes:

‘seven major areas of learning: languages, health and physical education, social studies, arts and humanities, mathematics, natural and life sciences, as well as interdisciplinary activities. Each school has its own curriculum development committee, which reviews teaching materials in light of the school’s particular approach and the needs of students. Some junior high schools offer technical courses to students in their third year of study, paving the way for their enrolment in vocational schools or five-year junior colleges upon graduation.

Languages constitute 20 to 30 percent of the overall curricula, with the other six areas accounting for roughly equal shares of the remainder. English is a compulsory subject from the third grade. Besides English and the official language, Mandarin, students from first through sixth grade are required to study one additional language spoken natively in Taiwan—Holo, Hakka or an indigenous language… Local language study is optional in junior high school.’

The Wikipedia entry on Taiwan’s education system offers further detail but may be somewhat outdated. In elementary schools the timetable typically runs from 07.30 to 16.00, except on Wednesday when school finishes at 12.00.

It says that, in junior high schools, the curriculum includes:

  • Classical and modern Chinese literature and poetry, composition and public speaking.
  • Maths, including algebra, geometry, proofs, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.
  • Essential English grammar
  • Science: biology (first year), chemistry (second year), physics (third year), earth science (third year) and technology (all years)
  • Social Studies including civics, history (Taiwan and China in first two years; world history in third year) and geography (Taiwan in first year, China and East Asia in second year and world geography in third year)
  • Home economics, crafts, fine art, music and drama
  • PE and outdoor education.

The Wikipedia entry emphasises that pressure remains intense to achieve the best possible outcome on entrance exams for senior high school, but the Taiwanese Government material gives a different and more up-to-date perspective.

It says that over 97% of students graduating from junior high school in the 2011/12 school year continued their studies. Forty-three percent continued to senior high school while the majority pursued vocational education in either a senior vocational high school or a junior college.

To be admitted to one of these post-compulsory options, students can either make an application or pass a Basic Competence Test comprising Chinese, English, maths, science and social science. The application route is being introduced progressively, while entrance exams are simultaneously phased out.

By 2014:

‘students will be required to sit for competitive entrance exams only if they wish to be admitted to selected schools or specialised programmes’.

Other sources suggest a somewhat different and longer timeline (see further coverage at the end of Part Two).

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Post-compulsory Education

Ministry of Education material says that Senior High School education

‘is designed to cultivate physically and mentally sound citizens, laying the foundation for academic research and the acquisition of professional knowledge in later years…’

While Wikipedia adds:

‘In many high schools incoming students may select science or liberal arts tracks depending on where their interests lie. The different learning tracks are commonly referred to as groups. Group I consists of liberal arts students, Group II and Group III of science based students (the latter studies biology as an additional subject). Science based curriculum consists of more rigorous science and mathematics classes intended to prepare the student for a career in the sciences and engineering; the liberal arts track places a heavier emphasis on literature and social studies…’

Another source explains that, during the first two years, the curriculum is similar for all students and they do not specialise until the final year.

‘Core subjects include: Chinese, English, civics, the philosophy of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, history, geography, mathematics, basic science, physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, physical education, music, fine arts, industrial arts, home economics, and military training.’

In 2011, 94.67% of senior high school graduates went on to higher education.

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Vocational high schools

‘serve to cultivate technical personnel with professional knowledge and practical skills, and to help students lay the foundation for their future careers.’

They tend to specialise in fields such as agriculture, business, engineering and nursing. Students work towards ‘national examinations for technical or vocational licenses’ required for employment in their chosen field. However almost 82% progress to higher education.

Comprehensive High Schools offer both academic and vocational options and students can select from amongst these before deciding whether to pursue an academic or vocational track.

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2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu

2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu

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The History and Development of Gifted Education

Drawing on the distinctions made in the material available online, I have divided the historical development of Taiwanese gifted education into four fairly distinct phases, each of 10 to15 years’ duration:

  • Earliest stages – 1962-1973
  • Development of experimental pilot programmes – 1973-1984
  • Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law – 1985-1999
  • Development in the early years of this Century, publication of the White Book of Gifted Education in 2007 and subsequent progress.

The remainder of Part One covers the first two phases.

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Earliest Stages – 1962 to 1973

The cause of Taiwan’s interest in gifted education was very similar to that in Hong Kong and Singapore: a determination to achieve economic growth through investment in human capital, given the limited natural resources available.

This was formalised in the outcomes of a Fourth National Conference on Education, which took place in 1962. The Conference noted the benefits to gifted learners and to Taiwanese society as a whole.

Some sources say that the earliest provision was developed by a small group of administrators in 1961 (others say 1962), though all agree that there was no formal plan and very little funding.

The Ministry mentions an early pilot for musically talented learners located in Guangren, a private primary school in Taipei. Another source has it that this:

‘began in a private primary school, Kuang-Jen, in Taipei in 1963. Kuang-Jen Primary School was founded in 1959 by the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Since the inception of the SMP in Kuang-Jen, it has come to be regarded as setting the standard for gifted music education.’

Guangren and Kuang-Jen are in fact the same.

Initial pilots for academically gifted learners in two Taipei elementary schools started in 1964. Gifted education began to emerge as a topic at academic conferences and the first research papers were published.

Four years later, when compulsory education was extended to include the three years of junior high school, special education legislation was also introduced which acknowledged the needs of gifted learners.

The Ministry of Education says that the first separate special class for gifted learners with ‘general abilities’ (see 1984 categorisation below) was introduced in 1971 in an elementary school attached to Taichung Normal Junior College (now National Taichung Normal College).

Pupils were selected to undertake experimental courses which supplemented their normal Chinese, maths and science curriculum. Even at this early stage there was emphasis on stimulating creativity.

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Development of Experimental Pilot Programmes – 1973 to 1984

The history of developments during this period is heavily reliant on various papers attributed to Wu-Tien Wu, a former Director of the Special Education Center at NTNU.

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Elementary School Pilots

In 1973, The Taiwanese Ministry of Education began a nationwide six-year pilot programme in elementary schools. Eleven schools began to offer separate classes for learners identified on the basis of IQ.

Evidently the pilot met with only mixed success. A 1982 paper by Lin and Wu ‘Gifted Education in the Republic of China ROC’ (Gifted and Talented International Volume 1.1) says:

‘Although it has not achieved the results expected by many people, the programme did call people’s attention to the needs of gifted and talented children.’

Another 1985 paper published by Wu, also in Gifted and Talented International (Evaluation of Educational Programmes for Intellectually Gifted Students in Junior High Schools in the Republic of China) adds that, in 1978, the Ministry of Education asked a team at the National Taiwan Normal University to evaluate the pilot as it then operated, in 18 classes drawn from six participating schools.

They were to focus particularly on academic achievement in Chinese and maths, intelligence, anxiety and self-concept. Outcomes were assessed against a comparison group drawn from ordinary classes in the same areas.

Overall, the conclusion rather damns with faint praise:

‘The result has been somewhat satisfactory’.

More specifically, the evaluators found a positive impact on achievement in Chinese and maths, while those in the gifted classes showed less general anxiety but higher test anxiety and had poorer self-concept.

‘Generally speaking the advantages of the gifted education programmes seemed to exceed their disadvantages’

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Junior High School Pilots

In 1979, however, the pilot was extended to junior high schools. Wu and Lin explain that government guidelines were published in 1980, providing for redesign of the elementary school pilots as well as extension to the junior highs.

The guidelines set out four aims:

  • To study learners’ intellectual characteristics and creative abilities
  • To develop suitable curriculum and teaching methods
  • To support personal development (‘an integrated and healthy personality’) and so
  • ‘Determine a suitable educational system for gifted students’.

The guidelines specified that two full-time teachers should be deployed in every elementary school gifted class, and three in every junior high school class. No class should contain more than 30 pupils.

A separate class was to be provided where there were enough pupils who met the selection criteria. When there were too few pupils for this purpose, they should stay in their normal class but have access to a ‘special resource classroom’ where they might benefit from supplementary teaching and specially designed materials. Such resource classrooms were often operational after the end of the normal school day.

Participants should be identified through multiple criteria including teacher and parental recommendation, individual and group intelligence tests, as well as tests of aptitude and creativity.

One source suggests that pupils attending resource classrooms should be accelerated by one grade, especially in science, maths and languages, but there is no further reference to this.

Moreover, the guidelines advocated an ‘enrichment approach’ designed to expand learners’ knowledge and understanding. Teachers were encouraged to develop supplementary resources to complement the standard textbooks, to use creative teaching methods and problem-solving strategies. Additional activities – research, field trips, sport and recreation – were to be available during the summer and winter holidays.

Teachers were expected to undertake specialist training, while area-based expert ‘consultation groups’ were to support programme development and evaluation.

By 1981, one source says 36 elementary and 19 junior high schools were involved in these various pilot programmes involving over 3,000 learners. Another source gives different figures – 69 schools, 362 teachers and 5,055 students – while a third provides different figures again (these are included in Table 1 below)

Two evaluation teams visited twelve participating schools in the final year of the junior high school pilot. Eight of the twelve offered special classes and four had resource classrooms.

Six focused on ‘general intellectual development’ while four specialised in maths and science and two in languages.

Of the 1,000 students covered by the evaluation, 814 were in special classes and 274 in resource classrooms. The evaluators randomly selected comparison groups.

They were asked to assess:

  • Impact on achievement, creative thinking and personal adjustment;
  • The comparative effectiveness of special classes and resource classrooms; and
  • Obstacles to effective implementation.

They found that emphasis on additional enrichment declined as students approached their all-important entrance examinations for senior high school. Overall benefits were proportionately greater for younger students. Most schools tended to place too much emphasis on imparting knowledge and too little on cultivating creative, leadership and communication skills.

Some less motivated learners were permitted to remain in special classes and this caused problems, while on the other hand ‘homeroom teachers were reluctant to let the truly gifted go to the special class’.

Resource classrooms created more problems for administrators, including timetabling and deployment issues. Almost half of the teachers had no formal training in gifted education.

Parents were generally supportive but were ‘preoccupied with the idea that entering the best senior high school was the best thing for their children’. This placed pressure on the schools and influenced teaching.

Parents were also concerned that the resource class model imposed excessive workload because the children had to complete work for two teachers rather than one. Learners – including those attending resource classes – preferred the special classes for the same reason.

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Other developments

Wu explains that pilot programmes were extended into senior high schools when a third phase was begun in 1982, but these were confined to maths and science. The elementary and junior high pilot activity continued alongside.

The Ministry of Education had already established a ‘Sunshine Summer Camp’ in 1980, run by the Special Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). It offered junior high school students from Taipei and its surrounding area a two week programme comprising university-based study, group counselling, problem-solving, leadership training, sports and recreational activities. Additional camps supported by various universities and colleges also developed during this period.

In 1983 the Ministry introduced a separate national talent search programme for exceptionally gifted pupils in maths, physics and chemistry. This enabled school age students to be admitted early to university without taking entrance examinations. Participants were selected following a week-long science camp at NTNU.

In the first round in 1983, 34 students from 9th Grade and 12 from 12th Grade were selected. By 1988, this had increased to 467 9th Grade and 211 12th Grade students. Almost 1,000 candidates attended the initial camps.

Also in 1983 the Ministry introduced measures to allow elementary school pupils to complete the curriculum a year early by skipping or telescoping grades. In the first year 40 pupils entered junior high schools early.

Support for those talented in music, fine arts, dance and sports had been expanded progressively since 1973, with continuing involvement from private schools. During that year, one Taipei elementary school and two in Taichung began to run separate classes for musically talented learners.

By 1980, funded music provision began to be extended to a few public senior high schools and, from the following year, similar provision was developed in fine arts, dance, and sports. Ministry sources add that students could for the first time obtain exemption from entrance examinations.

Special education centres were formed at two National Teachers Colleges and at NTNU (the latter in 1974) to promote and support the emerging national gifted programme. These were subsequently extended to eight provincial normal colleges. Such centres supported interaction between researchers and teachers.

In 1973 the Ministry also began to publish a Gifted Education Monograph (elsewhere called the Research Bulletin of Gifted Education). In 1981 NTNU launched its own periodical ‘Gifted Education Quarterly’.

In 1981, Lin and Wu highlighted some of the outstanding issues then facing Taiwanese gifted education. These included:

  • Improving knowledge and understanding of gifted education and developing positive attitudes towards gifted learners. There is concern that too much pressure is placed upon them.
  • Introducing a broader concept of giftedness, extending a predominantly intellectual focus to embrace leadership, creative and psychomotor skills.
  • Developing a system-wide approach to gifted education covering all sectors and addressing obstacles associated with inflexible examinations and grading systems.
  • Improving professional development for specialist teachers who typically attend course of 4-12 weeks’ duration. Teacher selection, course content and subsequent networking all need attention. Improved coverage in initial teacher education may also be needed.

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Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive

Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive

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Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law

 

The Shape of the System

Wu is again responsible for much of the available analysis during this period.

On at least two occasions – in1992 and 2000 respectively – he utilises a framework first articulated by his compatriot Wang in a 1992 paper ‘A survey on related problems and teaching strategies in gifted education program in Taiwan’.

The breaks down the ‘operational system’ into three levels:

  • Supervisory level, including policy, legislation and guidance, responsible ‘administrative organisations and research;
  • Implementation level, including identification, placement, supply of teachers, curriculum, pedagogy and teaching materials;
  • Resource level, covering parental and community involvement and the contribution of the private sector.

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Framework for analysis of Taiwan's gifted education Capture

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I have adopted a similar framework for this analysis, adding material from other sources and highlighting changes of emphasis and detail between them. Wu and others devote significantly more attention to the first two of these categories, providing relatively little material about the ‘Resource level’.

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Supervisory

Chapter 2 of the 1984 Special Education Law (SEL) was devoted to gifted education, setting out definitions, identification procedures, placement arrangements, curriculum design, support, teacher development and allocation of resources.

It formally divided Taiwan’s gifted learners into three distinct categories:

  • those with general abilities (the intellectually gifted)
  • those with scholastic aptitude in particular academic disciplines (maths, science, language etc) and
  • those with special talents (music, fine arts, drama, dance and sport)

Under the terms of the legislation, the first category above is called ‘gifted’ while the second and third are called ‘talented’.

The SEL added more flexibility to the 1983 acceleration reforms, enabling highly gifted learners to skip more than one grade at each level of the education system (primary, junior high, senior high and university).

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Implementation

In his 1992 paper (pp 415-424) Wu has relatively little to say about the supervisory level, but describes the different elements of the implementation level thus:

  • Identification: intellectually gifted learners are screened at school level through teacher observation, evidence of achievement and the outcomes of group intelligence tests. Those falling within the top 10% take several more group and individual tests (including the Stanford-Binet, WISC-R, Raven’s Matrices and Torrance Test of Creative Thinking). These are administered at the students’ schools but under the supervision of ‘the university guidance institute’. Although described as a ‘multi-assessment procedure’ it is clear that possession of an IQ measure above 130 is the basic selection criterion.

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Identification process Capture

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For those with artistic or musical talent, selection generally involves auditions and aptitude tests, though there seems an expectation that successful candidates will also possess ‘a higher than average IQ’.

  • Programme design: although overarching curricular goals are set by central government, gifted programmes are locally determined by schools with support from colleges and universities. Refinements are introduced in the light of monitoring meetings involving both teachers and experts. Examples of issues addressed include the design of follow-up and evaluation studies and the content of summer enrichment activities. There is strong emphasis on enrichment and use of ‘creative teaching methods’ such as peer-tutoring, debates, experiments and games. Students undertake their own research projects drawing on independent study. Teachers are facilitators and guides. Affective development is not neglected – Wu uses as an example arrangements whereby gifted learners provide peer tutoring to low achieving peers.

‘Consequently, gifted children develop not only a gifted mind but, more importantly, a tender and loving heart.’

Opportunities for acceleration have increased, including provision for students in school to take university science courses at weekends under the National Science Council’s College Pre-Enrolling Project.

  • Teacher development: Certification as a teacher of gifted education depends on completion of 20 hours of professional development. This may be accumulated through weekend, summer and week-long term-time courses. The Ministry of Education pays for Government staff and academics to access training and conferences abroad. It also sends teams to review practice in other countries.
  • Resources: Schools receive government funding to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in gifted classes and to develop teaching materials, upgrade classrooms and buy necessary equipment. They utilise trips to local libraries, museums and broadcasters. Nevertheless, many need to raise additional funds from commercial sources or through the parents’ association. This can mean that different schools have different levels of support, and that some gifted programmes are better resourced than other parts of a school. There is an increasing supply of books and materials from city or county-level education authorities and commercial publishers.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that Taiwan’s involvement with the international Olympiad movement dates from this era. From 1992 they participated in the 33rd International Maths Olympiad (IMO) and in the International Chemistry Olympiad (ICO). From 1994 they also took part in the International Physics Olympiad (IPO).

Selection for the science Olympiads was based on a national talent search undertaken by NTNU with Ministry of Education sponsorship. Candidates took part in a 9-day science camp and finalists attended a ‘semi-intensive’ training camp for one month before the competition.

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Resource

In his 1992 treatment, Wu notes that several holiday programmes have been developed in the private sector:

‘For instances, the Chinese Youth Summer Camp, Audio-visual Library, Learning Camp, Computer Camp, Recreation Camp, and Chorus and Orchestra Clubs were among the programmes sponsored by these organizations in the past.’

Parental involvement seems to be confined principally to financial donations and voluntary activity.

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Problems and Issues

In a 1989 paper ‘Cultivating Genius’ Wu sets out some of the issues being experienced midway through this period.

  • By 1989, the separate self-contained gifted class have become significantly more common than the ‘resource class’ approach, though the Ministry has recently concentrated on increasing the number of resource classes. Research has identified strengths and weaknesses in each model. Though parents tend to favour separate classes, these are more costly and some schools have insufficient funding to offer them. Evaluation suggests that the separate classes improve both academic achievement and creative thinking, but some experts believe that students ‘do not learn to adjust socially or interact smoothly with mainstream pupils’. On the other hand, pupils in resource classes ‘are often regarded as “unusual specimens” both by the teachers and by their peers’.
  • Continuity has become an issue since many learners in elementary-level special classes have no progression route into similar classes at junior high school. This can cause ‘a difficult readjustment’. Though a new junior and senior high school programme has been introduced, it has not yet been fully implemented.
  • Parents remain fixated on the senior high school entrance examinations, the results of which determine which school students can attend. These exams are:

‘highly structured affairs that reward diligent study of prescribed texts and prodigious feats of memorisation…Parents therefore do not want their gifted children to risk failure by taking class work not specifically designed to pass this key examination—better to follow the complex structured curriculum than be too creative and study materials “useless” for the exams!’

This attitude also inhibits teachers from using creative teaching methods.

  • The 20 credit hours required for certification of gifted education teachers is too little. Teachers are challenged by the speed with which their students ‘consume’ material they have prepared and ‘have every right to complain of overwork’. Because they must also show that special classes are worth the investment made by the school, many ‘push their pupils to struggle for first place in every academic contest possible’. The Government has taken steps to increase the supply of qualified staff, since class sizes of 30 are proving too big.

Although there are positive signs of progress – research is focused on improving teacher education and assessment of student attitudes; curriculum reforms are seeking to balance the requirements of the senior high school entrance exam against more interesting content – experts are pressing the Government to adopt a more robust long-term gifted education policy.

By 1992, Wu’s list of issues is slightly different, including:

  • A need to expand the programme to train those with different talents that contribute to society;
  • Developing progression routes to senior high schools that do not depend on the entrance examinations;
  • The evaluation of the wide variety of accelerative models that have emerged;
  • An expectation that expansion of the resource room model, rather than the special class model, will continue because it ‘has been supported by some educators and most administrators’;
  • A need to introduce more robust and systematic evaluations of gifted programmes;
  • A continuing need to secure an integrated approach across elementary, junior and senior high schools, and also the integration of pre-school programmes, learning from examples in the private sector.
  • Support for twice-exceptional students and
  • Giving top priority to ‘providing the gifted students with a conducive, ecological environment. Just as a sprout needs nutrients to grow, ecological resources are called for in order for the gifted to have their potential fully developed’.

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The Size and Growth of the Programme

Tables 1 and 2 below show the rate of growth of Taiwan’s gifted education programme during this period. They are compiled from various different sources but all the figures agree (except the one marked *). However, as we have seen, there are at least three different versions of the earliest figures for 1981!

Table 1 shows that, whereas gifted students outnumbered their talented peers in 1981 and the proportions were broadly equal in 1984, the number of talented students grew more rapidly and subsequently became significantly larger.

It is also evident that, while increases in numbers were substantial in the 1980s and early 1990s, there had been a significant slowing of expansion by 1997.

1981 1984 1987 1991 1997
Gifted 3475 4490 6356 9846 10090
(+29%) (+42%) (+55%) (+2%)
Talented 2366 4347 7404 16167 22479
(+84%) (+70%) (+118%) (+39%)
Total 5841 8837 13760 26013 32569*
(+51%) (+56%) (+89%) (+25%)

Table 1: Numbers of Gifted and Talented Students 1981-1997

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Table 2 shows that the number of gifted/talented students increased most rapidly in senior high schools over this period but, by 1997, elementary schools were enjoying a relatively faster rate of expansion.

1987 1991 1997
Elementary Schools 144 171
Classes 460
Students 7061 11860 15070
(+40%) (+27%)
Junior High Schools 117 142
Classes 344
Students 4999 10266 11334
(+105%) (+10%)
Senior High Schools 46 90
Classes 120
Students 1700 3887 6182
(+129%) (+59%)
Total Schools 175 307 403
Classes 506 924 1223
Students 13760 26013 32586*
(+89%) (+25%)

Table 2: Numbers of Gifted/Talented Schools, Classes and Students by Sector, 1987-1997

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Other data snippets:

  • By 1987, Taiwan’s overall student population was around 3.6m, of which 3% were assumed to be gifted/talented, but only 13% of the latter were supported by gifted and talented programmes; by 1991, around 0.6% the total student population was supported in gifted and talented programmes.
  • In 1991 the balance between male and female participants in gifted programmes was 57% female and 43% male; by 1997, the differential had increased to 18% (59% female and 41% male).
  • From 1995 to 2000, the rate of increase in gifted students fell to around  3% per year, mainly because, according to Wu:

‘In the wake of recent increased demands for educational reform in Taiwan, public attention has placed much more emphasis on the special educational needs of children with disabilities than on the gifted/talented. Gifted education seems to have been left out and it is not even mentioned in the “Final Report of Educational Reform” (Executive Yuan, R.O.C., 1996). On the other hand, “education for the disabled” has been highlighted and very well funded.

This marks the end of Part One. In Part Two we shall explore the development of Taiwanese gifted education since the turn of the Twenty-First Century.

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GP

February 2013

Where Have We Got To With National Curriculum Reform? Part Two

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This post contains a detailed summary of the tranche of National Curriculum Review and associated publications released on 7 February 2013. It examines the implications of the changes proposed, including the impact on high-attaining gifted learners.

Old NC logo CaptureThis is the latter part of a bigger study of the National Curriculum Review since the first Government response in June 2012.

Part One itemises the issues outstanding following that initial response and offers a narrative-cum-commentary on subsequent developments, up to the day before publication of the second response.

Part Two sets this new compendium of documents in the context of earlier progress, considering whether they properly address the outstanding points following the June 2012 announcement, as well as those emerging from subsequent developments.

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The Oral Statement

During the evening of 6 February, rumours began to emerge on Twitter that a National Curriculum Review announcement would finally be made the following day, some eight months on from the previous announcement.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/299246325764071425

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There was some scepticism given the number of times the announcement had apparently been delayed in the past. But, by the morning, there were press stories from normally reliable sources including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC. (These links go to updated versions of the original articles).

The Secretary of State duly made his statement to Parliament at 11.30am that morning and his Department released the associated documentation as soon as he had finished speaking. A parallel statement was delivered in the House of Lords that afternoon.

The statements summarise the changes proposed, concentrating primarily on Key Stage 4 reforms. Mr Gove said that:

  • Consultation supported the case for changes to GCSE examinations, but the plan to introduce English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) – with single exam boards offering completely new exams in specified subjects – had proved ‘a bridge too far’.
  • The Government would concentrate instead on GCSE reform. GCSEs should be linear qualifications with all exams normally taken at the end of the course; there would be assessment of extended writing in subjects such as English and history; in maths and science there would be greater emphasis on quantitative problem-solving; internal assessment and use of exam aids would be minimised.
  • GCSEs would remain ‘universal qualifications’ – the Government would expect ‘the same proportion of pupils to sit them as now’. But students would not be ‘forced to choose between higher and foundation tiers’.
  • There would be new GCSEs in English, maths, the sciences, history and geography, these to be in place for teaching to begin at the start of academic year 2015/16.

Little of value emerged from the brief debates that followed. The Labour Opposition called the announcement ‘a humiliating climbdown’ and pressed for cross-party consensus on future arrangements.

When challenged as to why he had not acted sooner, the Secretary of State said only that:

‘I was clear that the programme of reform we put out in September was ambitious, and I wanted to ensure that we could challenge the examinations system—and, indeed, our schools system—to make a series of changes that would embed rigour and stop a drift to dumbing-down. I realised, however, as I mentioned in my statement, that the best was the enemy of the good. The case made by Ofqual, the detail it produced and the warning it gave, as well as the work done by the Select Committee, convinced me that it was better to proceed on the basis of consensus around the very many changes that made sense rather than to push this particular point.’

This suggests that it was the combined weight of Ofqual and the Select Committee – rather than the outcomes of consultation – that ultimately caused the volte face.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/299788036839976960

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The Documents

The documentation can be divided into three subsets, relating to the National Curriculum, Key Stage 4 Reform and changes to the secondary accountability system respectively.

I have included below hyperlinks to all relevant publications available on the Department for Education’s website:

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Material relating to the National Curriculum itself

A home page carries links to The Consultation on the Draft National Curriculum Programmes of Study

This in turn provides links to:

  • An associated publication ‘The National Curriculum in England – Framework Document for Consultation’ which contains overarching statements that apply to the curriculum and National Curriculum as a whole, as well as draft programmes of study and attainment targets for each National Curriculum subject (excluding the proposed programmes of study for KS4 English, maths and science). Each subject-specific draft programme of study (apart from KS4 English, maths and science) can be obtained from a separate page. Hyperlinks to each are included in the commentary below.
  • Separate initial draft programmes of study for KS4 English, maths and science. The associated commentary says ‘further versions will be developed alongside work on reformed GCSEs in these subjects and a formal consultation on the drafts will take place later in the year’.

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Material Relating to GCSE Reform

This comprises:

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Material Relating to Secondary Accountability

A new Consultation Document on Secondary School Accountability on which responses are due by 1 May 2013.

This refers to an upcoming parallel consultation on primary sector accountability which has not yet been published (and no specific date is given for its publication).

There is (as yet) no additional overarching commentary from DfE – such as a Q and A brief – to help readers interpret these documents and understand the connections between them. Such material may be added in the next few weeks as the consultation progresses and issues emerge from the various commentaries that are published.

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The National Curriculum Reform Proposals

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National Curriculum Structure

The consultation document on National Curriculum Reform makes a familiar two-fold case for change: comparison with the best performing jurisdictions worldwide and research evidence of deficiencies in existing arrangements.

It sets out plans for:

  • Retention of the current subject composition of the National Curriculum (apart from the relatively minor changes below) and of the existing Key Stage structure.
  • Greater rigour in English, maths and the sciences, compulsory study of a foreign language at Key Stage 2 and a new Computing programme of study replacing ICT.
  • Apart from primary MFL and Computing, no further changes to the required foundation subjects. KS4 students will still have access to subjects within each of the four defined ‘entitlement areas’.
  • Detailed programmes of study in the primary core subjects to give teachers ‘a detailed guide…to support them in bringing about a step-change in performance in these vital subjects’ while others ‘give teachers more space and flexibility to design their lessons by focusing only on the essential knowledge to be taught in each subject.’
  • Informal consultation on the draft KS4 programmes of study in English, maths and science – because they require further consideration alongside new subject content requirements for reformed GCSEs in these subjects. Statutory consultation will not begin until those GCSE content requirements are published. These core KS4 programmes of study will not be introduced until 2015, alongside the reformed GCSEs.

The Framework Document includes a helpful diagram showing the proposed structure of the new National Curriculum by Key Stage.

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Proposed NC structure 2013Capture

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Aims

The Framework Document describes the relationship between the National Curriculum and wider school curriculum, sets out proposed aims for the National Curriculum and draft statements on inclusion and on cross-curricular language, literacy and numeracy.

The draft Aims are very brief and emphasise knowledge over skills:

‘The National Curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the core knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.

The National Curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the National Curriculum specifications. The National Curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons.’

As well as seeking comments on the draft aims, the Consultation Document advances the suggestion that additional subject-specific aims are unnecessary and could be dispensed with, so teachers could form their own instead.

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Draft Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets

The Consultation Document seeks comments on the content of the draft programmes of study and whether it represents ‘a sufficiently ambitious level of challenge for pupils at each key stage’.

In relation to attainment targets the document says:

‘The Government has already announced its intention to simplify the National Curriculum by reforming how we report progress. We believe that the focus of teaching should be on subject content as set out in the programmes of study, rather than on a series of abstract level descriptions…

A single statement of attainment that sets out that pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study will encourage all pupils to reach demanding standards. Parents will be given clear information on what their children should know at each stage in their education and teachers will be able to report on how every pupil is progressing in acquiring this knowledge.

We are currently seeking views on how to improve the accountability measures for secondary schools in England…Approaches to the assessment of pupils’ progress and recognising the achievements of all pupils at primary school will be explored more fully within the primary assessment and accountability consultation which will be issued shortly.’

Comments are invited, meanwhile, on the proposed wording of the attainment targets which seem to be identical for each subject and are essentially vacuous:

‘By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

There is a question asking whether consultees agree that the draft programmes of study provide for effective progression between key stages. They are also asked whether they agree with the proposed introduction of computing in place of ICT.

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Inclusion Statement

Another question asks whether the National Curriculum embodies ‘an expectation of higher standards for all children’ and comments are invited on the impact on ‘protected characteristic groups’ (a footnote explains that these cover disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, religion or belief and, for workforce issues, age).

Comments are not explicitly invited on the text of the draft inclusion statement, which is reproduced in full below:

‘Setting suitable challenges

Teachers should set high expectations for every pupil. They should plan stretching work for pupils whose attainment is significantly above the expected standard. They have an even greater obligation to plan lessons for pupils who have low levels of prior attainment or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teachers should use appropriate assessment to set targets which are deliberately ambitious.

Responding to pupils’ needs and overcoming potential barriers for individuals and groups of pupils

Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief.

A wide range of pupils have special educational needs, many of whom also have disabilities. Lessons should be planned to ensure that there are no barriers to every pupil achieving. In many cases, such planning will mean that these pupils will be able to study the full National Curriculum. The SEN Code of Practice will include advice on approaches to identification of need which can support this. A minority of pupils will need access to specialist equipment and different approaches. The SEN Code of Practice will outline what needs to be done for them.

Many disabled pupils have little need for additional resources beyond the aids which they use as part of their daily life. Teachers must plan lessons so that these pupils can study every National Curriculum subject. Potential areas of difficulty should be identified and addressed at the outset of work.

Teachers must also take account of the needs of pupils whose first language is not English. Monitoring of progress should take account of the pupil’s age, length of time in this country, previous educational experience and ability in other languages.

The ability of pupils for whom English is an additional language to take part in the National Curriculum may be in advance of their communication skills in English. Teachers should plan teaching opportunities to help pupils develop their English and should aim to provide the support pupils need to take part in all subjects.’

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Other Issues, Implementation and Timetable

Strangely there is no separate question seeking comments on the draft statement about language, literacy and numeracy across the curriculum.

There is, however, a generic question about the extent to which the National Curriculum ‘will make clear to parents what their children should be learning at each stage of their education’, plus questions about key factors that may impact on effective implementation in schools and about sources of support that schools will need.

The Document acknowledges that there are ‘mixed views’ about whether to phase in the new arrangements. It has concluded that September 2014 should be the default except where Key Stage 4 reforms justify a longer timescale. KS4 English, maths, science, history and geography will be introduced from September 2015 but ‘Changes to remaining subjects will follow as soon as possible after that’.

There is a proposal to disapply large parts of the existing National Curriculum from September 2013: schools will still need to teach the subjects, but not the prescribed content.

This would apply to English, maths and science in Years 3 and 4 and all foundation subjects throughout KS1 and KS2. Disapplication is intended to ‘give schools greater freedom to adapt their own curricula’.

Similarly, the current programmes of study for all KS3 and KS4 subjects would be disapplied from September 2013 – this to continue until the new programme of study comes into force for each relevant year group.

Consultees are asked whether they agree with such disapplication.

There is some disagreement between the two documents over the timetable. The introduction to the Framework Document says:

‘Subject to Ministers’ final decisions, and to the approval of Parliament, it is the Government’s intention that the final version of this framework will be published in the autumn of 2013, and that the elements that require statutory force will come into effect from September 2014.’

The use of the phrase ‘autumn of 2013’ suggests that the standard 12-month period for schools to prepare may be somewhat eroded.

But, according to the Consultation Document, results of the consultation and the Department’s response will be published over the summer and the final National Curriculum will be available ‘early in the autumn term’ (so is more optimistic than the Framework Document that schools will have close to a full year to prepare for introduction from September 2014).

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Subject-specific draft Programmes of Study

It is not possible in the space available to provide a thorough analysis of each draft Programme of Study, but here are very brief snapshots of each.

Incidentally, it is unclear whether the drafts PoS for English, maths and science at KS1-2 are identical to those issued in June 2012 or have been further revised.

  • English KS1-2 (40 pages) is also accompanied by an Appendix  (22 pages). This is actually two appendices, covering spelling and grammar and punctuation respectively. The former includes statutory spelling lists as well as non-statutory guidance. There is also a separate non-statutory Glossary (18 pages) described as ‘an aid for teachers’. The three combined add up to 80 pages, making them comfortably the longest subject-specific package. The PoS is hugely detailed, set out on a year-by-year basis, together with extensive non-statutory ‘notes and guidance’. There is a separate section on Spoken Language and the PoS contains the expected emphasis on phonics and learning poetry by heart.
  • English KS3 (7 pages) is positively sketchy by comparison. The requirements for Reading include: ‘a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, including in particular whole books, short stories, poems and plays with a wide coverage of genres, historical periods, forms and authors. The range should include high-quality works from: English literature, both pre-1914 and contemporary, including prose, poetry and drama; Shakespeare (at least one play); seminal world literature, written in English’. There is an additional requirement to study at least two writers in depth each year.
  • English KS4 (8 pages) is similarly brief. The Reading requirement includes: ‘studying high-quality, challenging, whole texts in detail including: two plays by Shakespeare; representative Romantic poetry; a nineteenth-century novel;  representative poetry of the First World War; British fiction, poetry or drama since the First World War; seminal world literature, written in English.’
  • Maths KS1-2 (44 pages) is again extremely detailed. It, too, is set out on a year-by-year basis and includes much non-statutory material ‘notes and guidance’. There are specific sections on Spoken Language and ICT (‘calculators should not be used as a substitute for good written and mental arithmetic’).
  • Maths KS3 (9 pages) is much shorter. It includes clear reference to problem-solving within the curricular aims and an introductory section which effectively covers mathematical skills.
  • Maths KS4 (10 pages) is much the same, with similar references to problem-solving and mathematical skills.
  • Science KS1-2 (39 pages) is similar in style to the draft PoS for English and maths. It too includes a discrete section about Spoken Language.
  • Science KS3 (15 pages) covers Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as generic scientific skills and attitudes.
  • Science KS4 (18 pages) also covers Biology, Chemistry and Physics plus generic scientific skills and attitudes. In biology there is explicit reference to ‘the evolution of new species over time through natural selection’ and ‘the evidence for evolution from geology, fossils, comparative anatomy and molecular biology’.
  • Art and Design KS1-3 (6 pages) makes no reference to talent development. There is reference to ‘the greatest artists, architects and designers in history’ but no specific periods or artists are compulsory.
  • Citizenship KS3-4 (6 pages) includes UK governance and political system as well as volunteering and financial education. At KS3 there is an odd reference to ‘the precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United Kingdom’.
  • Computing KS1-4 (7 pages) draws together computer science and information technology. The KS4 PoS seems unusually brief and is much less specific than those for KS2 and KS3.
  • Design and Technology KS1-3 (8 pages) has curricular aims that highlight cookery, food and nutrition above other areas and include the history of design and technological innovation.
  • Geography KS1-3 (7 pages) shows a reasonable balance between knowledge and skills within the subject aims. Press attention has focused on the removal of references to the European Union.
  • History KS1-3 (10 pages) has attracted most comment. The subject aims include both knowledge and skills. At KS1, all named historical characters are given as examples. KS2 expects a chronological treatment of British history from the Stone Age to the Glorious Revolution. Named individuals required to be covered are: Pepys, Cromwell, Caxton, Wycliffe, Chaucer, Llewellyn, Dafydd ap Gruffyd, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, de Montfort, Thomas Becket and various kings, queens and emperors. KS3 requires coverage of ‘The development of the modern nation’ (General Wolfe to the Boer Wars) and ‘The twentieth century’. Named individuals required to be studied include: Wolfe, Clive, Bacon, Locke, Wren, Newton, Adam Smith, Nelson, Wellington, Pitt, Olaudah Equiano, Gladstone, Disraeli, Chamberlain, Salisbury, Lloyd George, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Atlee, Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Attlee, Thatcher. May Seacole is exemplary only (ie preceded by a ‘such as’). There is a strong emphasis on British (primarily English) history throughout.
  • Foreign Languages KS2-3 (7 pages). The ‘Purpose of study’ includes opportunities to ‘read great literature in the original language’. The languages specified are French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin or Ancient Greek. Spoken language requirements do not apply to the ancient languages.
  • Music KS1-3 (6 pages) contains no requirements to study specific musical genres or composers and there is no reference to talent development.
  • Physical Education KS1-4  (8 pages). There is reference to competitive sport, dance, outdoor activities, swimming. Only at KS4 is there reference to ‘becoming a specialist or elite performer’. This reference seems inconsistent since there are no comparable statements in other subjects such as art and music.

The contrast between the last of these – 8 pages covering all four Key Stages – and the first – 80 pages covering just two Key Stages – is hugely marked. The brevity of the PE PoS will become even more stark if subject-specific aims and the attainment target are stripped out.

This contrast illustrates perfectly the point made in Part One of this post, that there will be inevitable pressure during consultation to add detail to the over-brief PoS and, conversely, to strip it from the over-detailed PoS in the primary core.

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Revised Proposals for Key Stage 4

The Secretary of State’s letter to Ofqual is a response to Ofqual’s earlier advice on the Government’s proposals for KS4 reform – cited by the Secretary of State as influencing his decisions – and contains his ‘policy steers on the development of the new qualifications’.

These are very similar to those set out in the Oral Statement summarised above.

  • The GCSE qualification will stay in place, though subject to significant reform. New-style GCSEs are to be ready for teaching from September 2015 in at least: English language, English literature, maths, biology, chemistry, physics, combined science (double award), history and geography. The aim should be for all subjects to be ready for teaching from September 2016 if possible. Ofqual should give schools at least a year’s familiarity with revised regulatory requirements before they start teaching the new-style qualifications.
  • There should no longer be a combined English option and all combined science options should be worth two GCSEs. Further advice will follow about ‘the subject suite in mathematics’. There are no plans to publish content requirements for subjects outwith the EBacc.
  • GCSEs will continue as the basis on which schools will be held accountable for the performance of all their pupils. But the value for individuals ‘must take precedence ahead of ensuring the absolute reliability of the assessment’.
  • ‘I am persuaded by your advice that we should not move to a single Awarding Organisation offering each subject suite at this time’ but the position will be kept under review.
  • Ofqual will want to take proposals for the new accountability system into consideration when designing new regulatory arrangements.
  • GCSEs should remain ‘universal qualifications of about the same size as they are currently, and accessible, with good teaching, to the same proportion of pupils as currently sits GCSE exams at the end of Key Stage 4’. But there must be ‘an increase in demand’ at Grade C ‘to reflect that of high-performing jurisdictions’. At the top end there should be more challenging content and ‘more rigorous assessment structures’.
  • Reformed GCSEs should avoid higher and lower tier papers ‘while enabling high quality assessment at all levels’. The approach will vary between subjects and ‘a range of solutions may come forward’ such as ‘extension papers alongside a common core’ (which is therefore not seen as two-tier). ‘There should be no disincentive for schools to give an open choice of papers to their pupils’.
  • GCSEs must test extended writing in subjects like English and history, have ‘fewer bite-sized and overly structured questions’, and there should be more emphasis on quantitative problem-solving in maths and science. Internal assessment and use of exam aids should be kept to a minimum ‘and used only where there is a compelling case to do so’.
  • There is a strong case for a new grading scale and Ofqual advice is requested on this. Changes ‘should differentiate performance more clearly, particularly at the top end’. For English and maths, pupils might receive more information direct from awarding bodies.

Ofqual has already responded to the Secretary of State’s letter. Although the letter is broadly positive, Ofqual clearly signal that the timetable is challenging, will need to be kept under review and, if necessary, delayed.

The Response to Consultation Document is relatively brief and adds little, but it does provide a useful context in which to consider the steers set out above.

A colossal 84% of respondents felt that the EBC proposals had not identified ‘the right range of subjects’. Many said that the other subjects should not be devalued. There was significant opposition to the proposed ‘Statement of Achievement’

Interestingly, it says that ‘Nineteen per cent of respondents said that new qualifications should be comparable with international tests like PISA or with qualifications used in other high-performing jurisdictions.’

The discussion of tiering notes that:

‘A small majority (56 per cent) of respondents said that it would not be possible to end tiering across the full range of English Baccalaureate subjects, with the remainder fairly evenly split between those who thought it was possible and those who were unsure. Those who felt it would not be possible were often unsure that a single exam could assess all abilities, while others felt that tiering works well or that removing it might impact disproportionately on low attaining pupils. We asked what approaches might enable tiering to be removed; the most frequently suggested methods were a wider range of questions and additional papers aimed at narrower ranges of abilities.

AOs [Awarding Organisations] said that there would be particular challenges with removing tiering from mathematics qualifications, but most said [apparently contradicting the preceding point]  that it would be possible to develop qualifications which allowed all pupils to access all grades without using tiering. Some of the AOs spoke favourably of taking an approach where the qualifications are accessible to all pupils but may be taken at different ages depending on when each pupil was ready for them.’

Turning to internal assessment:

Almost half of respondents said that none of the English Baccalaureate subjects could be entirely externally assessed, while a quarter said that all of them could be. Almost half of respondents thought that mathematics could be completely assessed externally, while around a third thought each of the other subjects could be entirely externally assessed. Practical science work was the aspect that was most commonly cited as requiring internal assessment, with oral ability in languages, English communication and geography fieldwork all identified by a significant number of people.’

As for the timetable for implementation:

‘The majority (55 per cent) of respondents said that schools will need more than 18 months to prepare for new qualifications, while a further 23 per cent said that they would need between 12 and 18 months. Only five per cent of people said that schools could be ready in less than 12 months.’

The proposed timetable above still allows twelve months.

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Proposals for Secondary Accountability Reform

The consultation document on Secondary School Accountability begins with a statement that the timetable will be determined in the light of responses – with implementation of various elements in either 2015 or 2016.

The focus is exclusively on the publication and use of school performance data: there are no changes proposed to Ofsted inspection, though the document does consider how Ofsted will ‘use the headline measures in its work’. The level at which floor targets are pitched is also not addressed: information will only be available once the reformed GCSEs have been further developed.

The aims and vision reintroduce the concept of a ‘high autonomy, high accountability’ system. The latter should be fair, transparent and:

‘reward schools that set high expectations for the attainment and progress of all their pupils, provide high value qualifications, and teach a broad and a balanced curriculum…The aim of the changes to assessment and accountability is to promote pupils’ deep understanding across a broad curriculum and maximise progress and attainment for all pupils. Central to this is the need to make it easier for parents and the public to hold schools to account.’

The introductory paragraphs refer to a new Performance Data Portal (see below) but: ‘within this context, the school performance tables will continue to make key measures about all schools easily available’. These are the headline measures that most parents should be aware of and that Ofsted will use when judging schools’ performance.

The case for change rests on the contention that there are perverse incentives in the current system, while the floor targets in particular tend to encourage schools to focus disproportionately on the D/C borderline.

Schools can also be encouraged to focus on a narrow curriculum and current arrangements may also:

‘Adversely affect high attaining pupils. Ofsted have noted that some schools enter pupils for qualifications early to ‘bank’ a C grade, even though pupils would be better served by entering the qualifications later in the year and aiming for an A or B grade.’

The furore over GCSE English marking in summer 2012 is indicative of ‘what can happen when qualifications are placed under particular pressure by the accountability system’.

There are six specific proposals:

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First, to publish extensive data about secondary schools through a School Performance Data Portal, introduced in 2015, that ‘will bring all the information about schools onto one accessible website’.

The portal (also called a ‘Data Warehouse’) might be used to gather data from non-statutory tests deployed in secondary schools – including commercially available tests – and it ‘may be possible’ to enable schools to enter their own internal test data.

This might be helpful at KS3 where there is mandatory teacher assessment but parents do not receive test results. The Warehouse is described as helping parents contextualise the performance of their own children:

‘Parents would then be able to understand the results they receive about their own child more easily, helping them to make an informed judgement about whether their child’s test results represent good progress or a cause for concern’

But exactly how this would happen – given that individual pupils cannot be identified in publicly available data – is not explained.

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Second, to publish a threshold measure showing the percentage of pupils achieving a ‘pass’ [ie Grade C and above under current arrangements] in English and mathematics. This measure should be part of the floor standard.

This is justified on the grounds that the system should encourage schools to secure a good standard in key subjects amongst as many of their pupils as possible. A pass in English and maths is perceived as critical to pupils’ subsequent progression.

Since the GCSE grading system will change and there is also pressure to raise the level of what constitutes a ‘pass’, this is likely to be a more demanding threshold in future.

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Third (and perhaps most critically) to publish an ‘average point score 8’ measure based on each pupil’s achievement across eight qualifications and comprising three components:

  • English and maths (2).
  • Any combination of ‘three other current EBacc subjects’ (except that combined science cannot count alongside physics, chemistry or biology) (3).
  • ‘Three further high value qualifications’, whether in EBacc subjects, other academic subjects, arts subjects or vocational subjects that meet ‘the Department’s pre-defined criteria’ (3).

Schools will thus be incentivised to provide a broad and balanced curriculum ‘including the academic core of the EBacc as appropriate’. If pupils take more than three further qualifications, their best three will count. Pupils need not take eight qualifications – they may wish to concentrate on getting higher grades in fewer subjects.

The APS is expected to have currency amongst pupils:

‘Pupils will know their own score, and will be able to evaluate how well they have performed at the end of Key Stage 4 by comparing their score with easily available local and national benchmarks.’

The consultation paper argues that:

‘This approach incentivises schools to offer an academic core of subjects to their pupils, by reserving five slots for these qualifications. It allows schools flexibility to tailor the core as appropriate for their pupils. Including three further qualifications in the measure will reward schools that also offer a broad and balanced curriculum. Pupils can follow their interests to take further academic subjects, including but not limited to further EBacc subjects, arts subjects, and high value vocational qualifications.’

The point score system will not be developed until ‘decisions have been made on the grading of reformed GCSEs’.

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Fourth, that the key progress measure should be based on these eight qualifications, and calculated through a Value Added method, using end of Key Stage 2 results in English and mathematics as a baseline. This progress measure should also be part of the floor standard.

Hence the progress measure should ensure that schools are not penalised for an intake with relatively lower prior attainment:

‘It will take the progress each pupil makes between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 and compare that with the progress that we expect to be made by pupils nationally who had the same level of attainment at Key Stage 2 (calculated by combining results at end of Key Stage 2 in English and mathematics).’

This will ensure that each pupil’s achievements count equally:

‘Pupils’ scores across eight qualifications will be compared to the expectations that we have for pupils with their particular Key Stage 2 results. Progress measures give schools credit for helping all pupils, whatever their starting point. It will celebrate those schools that help children with low prior attainment achieve some good qualifications, and highlight schools in which pupils are not being stretched appropriately.’

There will be no incentive for schools to focus excessively on ‘pupils near a particular borderline’.

There are no technical details of how this measure would be developed, which raises several questions.

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Fifth, that schools should have to meet a set standard on both the threshold and progress measure to be above the floor.

The floor targets will be set in such a way that they are challenging and fair regardless of the prior attainment of a school’s intake.

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Sixth, to ‘introduce sample tests in Key Stage 4 to track national standards over time.’

Because the Government uses the same headline measures to track national standards as are used to assess schools’ performance, it can be hard to see whether changes are attributable to pupils’ performance or schools ‘gaming’ the system.

Consequently new sample tests, taken annually, might be introduced in English, maths and science, to track standards over time, building on the model established by PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS. The document asks how these could best be introduced.

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A series of questions is also asked about possible further accountability measures:

  • Whether the floor standard should be a relative measure in the first year of new exams. Because there will be relatively little data to inform the pitching of floor standards when reformed GCSEs are introduced, the consultation asks whether a relative measure might be used for the first year only, based on ‘the worst performing number of schools’.
  • How to publish information about the achievement of pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium. The Government plans to continue publishing ‘the attainment of children eligible for the Pupil Premium, that of other children, and the gap between them’ – and in relation to the threshold and progress measures above. The consultation asks whether any further measures should be introduced.
  • What other information should be made available about schools in headline measures, alongside the EBacc measure (which is a given). The document confirms that there will not be any changes to the current EBacc measure, which will continue to be published, its value lying in encouraging ‘schools to offer the full range of academic subjects to more pupils’. A ‘headline measure showing the progress of pupils in each of English and mathematics’ is also proposed ‘to show how pupils with low, medium and high prior attainment perform’. Exactly how these categories will be defined in the absence of National Curriculum levels, is not explained. These headline measures will compare schools with other similar schools – using a ‘statistical neighbours approach taking into account prior attainment’ – as well as national benchmarks. The document asks whether there are other measures that should be published (whether existing or new).
  • How to recognise the progress and attainment of all pupils in the accountability system, particularly considering pupils who, as now, may not be able to access GCSEs. The document expresses an aim to publish data giving information about such pupils’ progress ‘wherever possible’. Further consideration will be given to how it might be included in progress measures. The consultation question asks what other data could be published for schools, including special schools, to ensure best progress and attainment for all their pupils.
  • Whether the Department should no longer collect Key Stage 3 teacher assessment, whilst ensuring that the results of assessments continue to be reported to parents. The Government proposes to retain the statutory requirement to conduct and report KS3 assessments in all National Curriculum subjects, but to remove the requirement for the reporting of these results to DfE, so reducing bureaucracy. Since National Curriculum levels are going, DfE ‘could only collect very limited information at Key Stage 3 in future’.
  • How to recognise the achievement of schools beyond formal qualifications. The document says that ‘pupils do not necessarily need to achieve a very high number of qualifications; it is not necessary to take more than 8-10 GCSEs or other qualifications to demonstrate a breadth of academic achievement’. Since schools are required to set out their curriculum online, this might be supplemented by setting clearer expectations on publication of information about ‘the range of activities schools offer’. This could also be reported through the Data Portal.

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Assessment of these Proposals

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National Curriculum

In many respects, the revised draft National Curriculum is relatively similar to what we have now. The Key Stage structure is unchanged and there are no real surprises in terms of subject structure.

As noted above, there is huge variation in the length and detail of programmes of study, with the initial draft programmes in the primary core subjects much more specific than their predecessors and everything else stripped back to the bare minimum.

The extent of this imbalance is such that there will inevitably be pressure during consultation to reduce it, since there is no logical justification for increasing prescription in some subjects while reducing it in others (especially when academies are exempted from the National Curriculum in its entirety).

If the arguments in favour of improving flexibility and autonomy have any substance, they must surely apply as much in primary English, maths and science as any other subjects, but the Government is at risk of recreating the old National Primary Strategies under another name.

The consultation document makes clear that the Government would like to simplify the drafts even further, by removing subject-specific aims. They may even prefer to eliminate the attainment targets which are identical across all subjects and no longer serve any useful purpose.

The proposal to disapply the vast majority of the existing National Curriculum in 2013/14 is justified on the basis that it will help schools prepare for the following year when the new National Curriculum is introduced. But, if schools can cope without almost the entire structure for a year – and even longer in some KS4 subjects – the inevitable question arises whether they need it at all.

The revised inclusion statement deserves to be compared carefully with the current version which contains three clearly delineated sections:

  • Setting suitable learning challenges – describing how teachers should teach the specified knowledge, skills and understanding ‘in ways that suit their pupils’ abilities’.
  • Responding to pupils’ diverse learning needs – how teachers should provide opportunities for all pupils to achieve – and
  • Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.

The new version does contain an explicit reference to planning lessons to reflect different pupils’ prior attainment (rather than their abilities) but the statement that the obligation for those with low prior attainment is greater than the corresponding obligation to plan for those with high prior attainment appears discriminatory and unfair, for surely every learner has an equal right to their teachers’ attention, irrespective of their prior attainment.

Finally, there is nothing at all in the published material about how academies – who are not bound by the National Curriculum – are expected to respond to it. The FAQ briefing released in June 2012 made clear the Government’s expectation that many academies ‘will choose to offer it’ and they also described it as a ‘a benchmark for excellence’.  Some clarity about the translation of these expectations into practice might have been included on the face of the Framework Document.

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Key Stage Four Reform

The fundamental question is whether the Secretary of State’s change of direction is a minor adjustment or a major U-turn.

It is clear that the entire concept of a different qualification – the EBC itself – has been dropped, as has the plan to exert control over the supply side, by arranging for a single board to provide qualifications in each subject.

These were the two top-line features of the proposals set out in the original Key Stage 4 Reform Consultation Document and they no longer feature within the Government’s plans (although the latter will be ‘kept under review’). What remains is a set of significant but nevertheless second-level plans to change the structure and content of GCSE examinations.

When he appeared before the Education Select Committee in December, the Secretary of State was asked at the outset for his rationale for the effective abolition of specified GCSEs and their replacement by EBCs, rather than confining his efforts to retaining and improving GCSEs.

His answer was as follows (these quotes are from the Uncorrected Transcript of the Session):

‘We thought that it was appropriate to have a clean break with the system…

… With respect to the reason why we felt it was better to have a clean break rather than simply to continue, we wanted to ensure, first, that there was an element of innovation. We wanted to say that GCSEs, having been designed for a different world, had now had a period of time during which certain deleterious consequences had flowed from the way in which they had been designed and implemented, and we wanted to move to a new system.

We felt it would be better, if we were making the series of changes that we were making, to signal that clean break, not least the clean break between competing exam boards and a franchise system, by saying that it was a new qualification. We also felt that that new qualification would signal a higher degree of ambition overall for our education system.

Later in the same session he was asked whether he would be prepared to maintain ‘the GCSE brand’ since the changes he proposed could equally well be incorporated within the existing qualification, if the balance of opinions arising from the consultation supported that.

He replied:

‘I have to say that it is my strong view that attempting to breathe life into the GCSE brand would be in no-one’s interest, but if I can develop a better and clearer understanding of why it is that people believe that maintaining that brand or name would be a good idea, then I would be in a better position to be able to weigh that view and decide whether or not it had merit. I have to say, it would have to be a very powerful and seductive argument of the kind that I have not yet encountered that would incline the Government to change its view on that question, but we are open-minded about what the new set of qualifications could be called.’

It is clear that the Secretary of State’s views have undergone a seismic shift since he made those responses in early December 2012.

Turning to the specific proposals for reform, the insistence on the avoidance of tiered papers appears rather to fly in the face of the consultation responses. The wording of the report on those responses – quoted above – is not hugely convincing.

Moreover, the Government itself has no clear alternatives beyond a common core plus extension paper model that seems almost identical in principle to a tiered approach (since someone must decide who can access the extension papers unless everyone takes them).

The reference in the Ofqual letter to the possibility ‘that a range of other solutions may come forward’ sounds slightly forlorn.

As for the other elements, the combined effect of plans to increase the level of challenge at the ‘pass level’, improve stretch and challenge at the top end and introduce a different grading system across the board, seem to be potentially the most significant.

By ratcheting up the level of demand and changing the nomenclature of grades, any possibility of comparability between ‘old-style’ and ‘new-style’ GCSEs will be eliminated.

There is a risk that ‘old-style’ GCSEs will be regarded as devalued currency, while schools will have to manage a significant fall in the percentage of students achieving the top grades. This will remain a fixation in the media, regardless of efforts to shift to an ‘APS8’ headline measure.

It is likely that the strongest schools will cope better with the necessary adjustment, thus widening the gap between them and their comparatively weaker counterparts.

There are several loose ends, not least the ‘missing’ KS4 subject outlines, which should ideally have been published alongside English, maths and science as initial drafts ‘for information’.

It appears that the interesting references during consultation to taking examinations ‘when ready’ – rather than to a fixed timetable – have been set aside without further consideration. This is disappointing since ‘just in time’ assessment would significantly increase schools’ flexibility to adapt examination entrance to fit the needs of their students rather than vice versa.

Ofqual has already sent a shot across the bows in respect of the challenging timetable for implementation. The technical complexities associated with the required changes should not be underestimated and of course schools need generous lead-in times before the new courses start. A detailed implementation timeline is conspicuous by its absence.

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Secondary Accountability Reform

The Government has rather belatedly recognised that it needs to address significant issues about primary assessment and accountability, alongside the pre-announced secondary consultation, and this leaves a significant gap in our understanding of the future direction of travel.

It would have been helpful to have had some indication of the issues that this future consultation would address.

It seems that the new-style secondary performance tables will be built around seven core elements:

  • The English and maths pass grades threshold.
  • The Average Point Score in eight subjects.
  • Value-added progression between KS2 English and maths combined and the APS8 measure.
  • Distinctions between the performance of those eligible for the Pupil Premium and other learners based on the measures above.
  • The EBacc.
  • A measure showing the progress made by low, middle and high attainers respectively in each of English and maths.
  • Measures yet to be defined assessing the progress made by those who cannot access GCSEs (and which would be appropriate for mainstream and special schools alike).

This would suggest an interest in significantly slimming down the existing Performance Tables and the relegation of several existing elements – such as the newly-developed KS4 ‘destination measures’ – into the accompanying Data Portal.

There are important unanswered questions about how this Portal can simultaneously provide for those interested in comparing the performance of schools and for parents, interested primarily in understanding how their children have performed in comparison with national benchmarks and with their peers. It would have been helpful to have seen an outline specification.

There are also significant technical issues associated with the definition in future of low, medium and high attainers and the development of the value-added APS8 progress measure.

Although the EBacc is retained as a headline measure, there is every possibility that the new APS8 will supersede it, because it is the chosen foundation on which the core progression measure will be built. There is a real possibility that the EBacc in its current format could wither on the vine, so this is potentially another major concession from the Government.

The consequences are potentially profound, since the current menu of desirable subject choices is significantly expanded, not least to include art, music and religious education.

Meanwhile, the privileged position secured by the sciences, foreign languages, history and geography is somewhat compromised. Given their perceived difficulty for many learners, one might hazard a prediction that the take-up of foreign languages is most likely to suffer, and just when it has been made compulsory at Key Stage 2!

The potential introduction of PISA-style sampling tests opens up the possibility of developing closer links between national assessment and the existing international comparisons studies. If they wished, the Government could effectively use the current PISA methodology to monitor annual national progress.

But this raises the spectre of such sampling tests beginning to dictate the curriculum, as the Government of the day becomes increasingly concerned to demonstrate that its reforms translate into a favourable showing in PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS. Some assurances about these matters may be necessary.

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Have all June 2012 commitments been honoured?

Despite the huge range of material that has been published, the answer is ‘not quite’:

  • We now have the full set of draft programmes of study for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, albeit some months later than expected. The draft programmes of study for KS4 English, maths and science are still provisional and we lack the subject-specific content requirements for new-style GCSEs in history, geography and foreign languages.
  • We have the promised consultation on curriculum aims and spoken language development across the curriculum (although the consultation document rather neglects the latter).
  • There has been no second letter to the National Curriculum Expert Panel as we were originally led to expect but, more importantly,
  • There is no sign of consultation on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements.

The June 2012 letter to the Expert Panel said:

‘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.’

We have reference to a new GCSE grading system, but the expectation of a new approach to grading for Key Stages 1-3 has so far been unfulfilled. It might potentially be wrapped up in the expected consultation on primary assessment and accountability, but that would presumably omit KS3.

Some clarity about the Government’s intentions with respect to this commitment is much to be desired.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/299493021458763777

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Implications for High-Attaining Learners

The response within these proposals to the needs of high-attaining learners is, frankly, mixed.

The emphasis on greater stretch and challenge within the GCSE is welcome, as is the proposed new grading system, since the proportion of entries now securing A*/A grades makes the existing scale unsustainable.

The shift towards an average points score measure within the secondary Performance Tables is equally welcome, since it should hopefully remove any perverse incentive for schools to focus disproportionately on borderline candidates, at the expense of those at either end of the attainment distribution.

But the draft National Curriculum is more problematic. The huge degree of flexibility it permits could work in favour of high-attaining learners.

Schools may use such flexibility to plan and implement coherent curricular programmes – judiciously blending enrichment, extension and acceleration – for those who are well ahead of their peers and/or have already mastered the statutory material. (However, such flexibility will be severely curtailed in primary English, maths and science.)

The better schools will certainly do so – whether or not they are bound by the National Curriculum – but there is some reason to doubt whether less good schools will follow suit.

Moreover, there is currently no universal and reliable mechanism to spread effective practice from the better schools to the less good. As a consequence, the quality of curricular provision for high attainers is almost certain to be patchy – and remain so.

Parents may be able to exercise a limited degree of market choice, but only if they are given access to relevant data in an accessible form.

Some modicum of leverage could be introduced through the National Curriculum to ameliorate this patchiness, but the levers are either under threat or have not been fully deployed:

  • The draft inclusion statement rightly continues to reference the need to:

Plan stretching work for pupils whose attainment is significantly above the expected standard.’

But this is immediately undermined by what follows: ‘They have an even greater obligation to plan lessons for pupils who have low levels of prior attainment or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.’ Worryingly, this falls into the trap of assuming that high-attaining pupils do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Furthermore, it implies low attainers are somehow a higher priority. This infringes the principle – upheld in the shape of the new APS performance measure – that every learner has an equal right to challenge and support, regardless of their prior attainment.

  • Attainment targets have been reduced to a standard lowest common denominator which is essentially meaningless and could be removed entirely without any damage being done. But attainment targets and level descriptions were previously the basis for differentiation within the programmes of study. With the level descriptions stripped away, it is left entirely to teachers to decide how the programmes of study will be adjusted to reflect the very different needs of their pupils. In classes and schools where differentiation is already effective this is unlikely to have a deleterious effect, but in settings where high attainers are routinely under-stretched, there is no scaffolding for teachers to hold on to. The same point about dissemination of effective practice applies.
  • The Secretary of State’s previous commitment to a new grading system – in the core subjects as part of the statutory assessment arrangements – would have gone at least some way towards filling this gap. (Schools without their own established good practice might have been expected to apply the preferred methodology outside the core subjects as well.) But consultation on grading is conspicuous by its absence. It is not clear whether it will be picked up in the forthcoming primary accountability consultation or whether it has been set aside. As I’ve pointed out on several occasions, the recent introduction of Level 6 tests (which can no longer exist in their current form beyond 2014), as well as Ofsted’s concerns about underachievement among high attainers, render this particularly important at the top end

Overall there seems a certain precarious fragility about the capacity of the current proposals to embody ‘an expectation of higher standards for all children’ especially those – disadvantaged as well as advantaged – who are not being stretched to their full potential.

The risk is much greater in relatively weaker schools because they need more substantial scaffolding to support their practice.

But – just as Ofqual and the Education Select Committee brought about a radical rethink on Key Stage 4 reform, Ofsted is well-placed to ride to the rescue.

Their ‘landmark’ rapid response report on how schools teach their most able learners (though it seems not to have been announced officially) is due for publication ‘in the Spring’.

It is almost certain that the remit will extend to careful scrutiny of the current National Curriculum proposals. So one would expect the recommendations directed at central Government to push for further improvements if those proposals are found wanting.

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GP

February 2013

Where Have We Got to With National Curriculum Reform? Part One

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This post – released on the cusp of a long-awaited National Curriculum announcement – is a narrative-cum-commentary on key developments since the Government’s first National Curriculum Review response in June 2012.

I had originally intended that it would incorporate the detail of the imminent announcement and an in-depth analysis of the implications, for high-attaining learners in particular.

Old NC logo CaptureBut the publication of the second response has been so often postponed – and so much has happened in the meantime – that it seems far preferable to publish two shorter posts rather than one long-winded amalgamation. This way, I hope, the wood stands a better chance of being spotted amongst the verdant foliage.

So this first part will offer a resumé of National Curriculum and associated proceedings – such as the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) – since June 2012.

It draws out some key issues that the upcoming announcement might be expected to address and highlights some fundamental tensions that it might hopefully resolve.

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Episode Seven

This is the seventh in a long series of posts tracking the story of the National Curriculum Review and associated developments.

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How Matters Stood in June 2012

The documents forming the Government’s partial response to the Expert Panel in June 2012 (together with the associated briefing) made clear some aspects of the future stages of the review and its timetable as they were then envisaged:

  • Revised draft programmes of study for non-core primary subjects would be published ‘later this year’ (ie last year – 2012), while formal consultation on the draft programmes of study for the primary core subjects of English, maths and science, originally released in June, would take place ‘towards the end of this year’ (again 2012);
  • The  Secretary of State would write to the Expert Panel about the secondary National Curriculum ‘in due course’ and there would be further announcements ‘in the new year’ (ie early 2013) on:

.‘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.

  • There would also be further consultation on the aims of the curriculum, in light of the Expert Panel’s recommendation that they should be defined (though the timing of this is not clarified). This would include provision to embed spoken language development across the curriculum as a whole; and
  • The Government would also ‘consult further on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements. The timing is not given but a useful gloss is offered in the Secretary of State’s letter:

.‘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.’

These carefully laid plans were thrown into some confusion by an apparently sudden decision to reform KS4 qualifications by introducing the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

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The Advent of the EBC

When the Daily Mail reported initial plans for the EBC on 21 June, an explicit part of the package was the abolition of the secondary National Curriculum in September 2013. The paper confidently reported:

‘None of the plans require an Act of Parliament.’

That same day, Mr Gove, answering questions in Parliament, said only that the secondary National Curriculum would be ‘properly aligned with qualifications’ but, two weeks later, by 6 July, the narrative had changed significantly:

  • The secondary National Curriculum would not be abolished because legislation would after all be required – and because the Liberal Democrats had signalled that their support for such a move could not be taken for granted. (The Liberal Democrats also made clear that they had not been consulted on the plans at this point.)
  • There would instead be a ‘skeleton National Curriculum’ including ‘very, very short’ programmes of study that ‘will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught’.
  • A source ‘very close to the Education Secretary’ is quoted:

.‘Our goals are 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.’

The consultation on the EBC, once published in mid-September did not address substantively the relationship between EBC syllabuses and National Curriculum Programmes of Study.

The implication is presumably that, in the subjects covered by the EBC, syllabuses will drive the curriculum rather than vice versa:

We do not believe that Government should seek to determine this subject knowledge in detail: we will look to those who wish to provide our new qualifications to consult with subject experts, domestically and internationally, to prepare and propose truly world class syllabuses, and to provide evidence that they match the curriculum content taught in the highest performing jurisdictions around the world.

To aid Awarding Organisations in their considerations, we will set out our broad expectations for the subject content we would consider absolutely essential for these purposes, drawing on analysis of the best qualifications offered in other countries and using the consultation period to work with subject and education communities to develop appropriate content. We will be looking for Awarding Organisations to build upon these expectations by working directly with higher education institutions and learned societies to create a syllabus for each subject that is truly world class and provides an excellent preparation for further study…

 Our expectations of subject content will be published when we set out our final policy requirements to Ofqual at the end of the consultation period. Requirements for history, geography and languages will follow at a later date as these subjects are following a longer timeline.’

Warwick Mansell reported that a parallel announcement on secondary National Curriculum programmes of study was originally planned to coincide with the EBC announcement, but this decision was reversed at the last minute.

The logical conclusion from this must be that some at least of the draft programmes of study were deemed ready for publication in mid-September, well over four months ago. But subsequent evidence suggests that several of the draft programmes have been revised several times since.

Perhaps the late decision to withhold the September drafts suggests a lack of confidence in their readiness for external scrutiny, or maybe a conviction that the planned work ‘with subject and education communities to develop appropriate content’ during the EBC consultation period should be unfettered by reference to such drafts.

It is of course the case that these programmes of study would only be binding on the minority of secondary schools that are not yet academies, whereas the syllabuses would impact on all schools where pupils took EBC examinations.

The corollary of this is that academies (including free schools) would enjoy significantly greater freedom at Key Stage 3, but not at Key Stage 4 – assuming that both Key Stages were retained under the revised National Curriculum, which was not necessarily a given at this point.

Negligible information has been revealed about work commissioned to ‘develop appropriate content’ for EBCs during the consultation period, or how that was linked to development of the National Curriculum programmes of study.

A search on Contracts Finder reveals a reference to four 19-month contracts, concluded on 5 December 2012, to ‘develop English Baccalaureate Certificates further’. The total value is £39,600. The providers were secured through ‘competition as part of an existing framework agreement’.

One of the two suppliers is awarded three of the contracts, worth £30,000 while the fourth – worth the balance of £9,600 – goes to a different supplier. These presumably cover English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology (and possibly computer science).

At the time of writing no contractual documents are appended so there is no detail about expected deliverables or the timeline.

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Autumn Leaks

Although we still had to wait some time for the publication of the final versions, draft secondary programmes of study for the three core subjects of English, maths and science were leaked in late October 2012.

The story was originally picked up in the Guardian which remarked on the extreme brevity of the material:

‘The national curriculum for maths at key stage 3 is just two and a half pages long, and for key stage 4 it is just two pages long.’

There were perceived to be conspicuous gaps in content. It was said that in English there is no reference to:

  • spelling at KS3
  • distinguishing between fact and opinion
  • development of summarising and note-taking skills
  • ‘creativity in the English language’
  • taking part in structured group discussion
  • listening skills ‘ to judge and interpret what a speaker has said’

Moreover, there was no prescribed canon of English literature but:

‘Pupils must read a range of works including the British literary heritage from both the 20th century and earlier; at least one Shakespeare play; contemporary British literature including prose, poetry and drama; and seminal world literature written in English.’

It was reported that in maths there was no reference to:

  •  identifying and classifying patterns
  • producing ‘accurate mathematical diagrams, graphs and construction’ and
  • ‘using and understanding ICT so that it can be used appropriately including with the correct syntax’.

The same story was picked up elsewhere two weeks later. On 9 November, the BBC reported that a draft had been leaked to the TES and ‘seen by BBC news’. This is presumably the same version seen by the Guardian.

Rather strangely, this report quotes a NATE spokesman concerned that the English material is: ‘overly focused on “a relentless diet of canonical works”’.

Meanwhile, the ASE described the science programmes (separately covering physics, chemistry and biology) as ‘a dull list of topics’. They:

‘questioned why it had taken so long to produce and asked why it did not reflect the findings of the expert panel for the national curriculum review which reported in December last year’

but, rather conflictingly,

‘added that teachers could work with the slimmed down curriculum as they were “intelligent and creative”’.

Further comments from one of the Expert Panel suggested that this material also included the ‘overall aims for secondary education’, though these were unhelpfully ‘reproduced from primary programmes of study’.

The BBC published the briefest of extracts from the leaked material:

Key stage three: 11 to 14-year- olds – Prime numbers- Use of formulae- Fractions and decimals – Diffusion and osmosis- Acids and alkalis- Measuring forces – Shakespeare: read a play- Know an ode from a sonnet- Use correct forms in letters
Key stage four: 14 to 16-year-olds – Differential and integral calculus- Vectors and matrices- Trigonometry – Role of enzymes- Chemical formulae- The Doppler effect – Evaluate style and structure- Use accurate standard English- Read range of canonical texts

A report the following day by the TES was similar to the BBC’s, quoting the same two sources. However, the ASE seemed more negative if anything, arguing that there was little evidence of progression from one key stage to the next and questioning why it had taken a year (up to that point) to produce the new curriculum:

“It’s not a curriculum…It is a list, but not a national curriculum. If all the national curriculum is going to be is a list of knowledge, if that was the intention all along, then why did we have to wait so long for it?”’

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail accentuated the positive with a report that the draft secondary English programme of study emphasised the importance of writing:

  • At KS3, pupils should be able to ‘write accurately frequently and at length, with increasing fluency and sophistication’ and ‘prepare personal and business letters using the correct form’.
  • The KS3 programme requires familiarity with 21 forms of writing including ‘articles and letters conveying opinions…autobiographies, screenplays, diaries, minutes and accounts’.
  • At KS4, they should be able to ‘increase the range of their writing’ and use ‘accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar’ (these hardly seem demanding requirements).

Rather oddly, none of the four sources chose to make the full documents available online to their readers. Although there are now supposed to be several different editions of these draft programmes in circulation, few if any have been published openly. This state of affairs is unhelpful to everybody.

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Never Mind the Quality…

A week later, another member of the Expert Panel offered a commentary on the IOE London Blog which helpfully breaks down the composition of the 30 page pack:

‘secondary English has been leaked with 6 pages, maths 7 and science 17’

This rather begs the question how the maths programme has increased by over 50% in length since the Guardian saw it just two weeks earlier!

We learn that the total number of pages is significantly fewer than required for the equivalent primary programmes of study which comprise ‘52 pages for English, 31 for maths and 40 for science’.

(We can however ‘expect exam boards to elaborate’, so implying that the EBC syllabuses are bound to be significantly more detailed than the programmes of study.)

At the other extreme:

‘It appears that each foundation subject (such as geography, art and PE) is to be described entirely in just two pages covering at least key stages 1-3.’

No source is given for this statement. The accompanying IoE Press Notice simply says that ‘it is understood that the Department for Education aims to describe the key knowledge for each foundation subject in two pages from ages five to at least 14.’

It may be that this is an inference from the instructions  given to the working party preparing a draft ICT Programme of Study:

‘DfE guidance makes clear that the new Programme of Study for ICT

  • Must be short: at most two sides of A4
  • Should include a statement of the purpose of the subject and the aims of the programme of study.
  • Should including a balance of content, along the lines of the Royal Society’s report “Shut down or restart”.
  • Should cover Key Stage 1-4, with a section about each key stage
  • Should encourage challenge and ambition’

While noting that brevity may not be a problem as long as ‘powerful concepts and significant topics’ are ‘identified by rigorous selectivity’ the IoE post suggests:

‘It may also be that it is a step too far to limit foundation subject descriptions to just two pages to cover so many years of primary and secondary education – it certainly appears remarkable.’

It asks why there are such disparities in the length of the programmes of study for different subjects at different key stages, criticising the comparative prescription in the primary core as counter-productive.

But it does not really develop this point – about the tension between curricular flexibility and curricular prescription – shifting instead to an equally important but very different argument about restricted subject choice within the wider school curriculum.

The point is however an important one. The factors impacting on the length and prescription of different programmes are essentially threefold:

  • Whether they are for core (detailed) or foundation (brief) subjects;
  • Whether they are for the non-academised primary sector (detailed), or the secondary sector, where academies not bound to follow the National Curriculum predominate (brief);
  • Whether they are effectively redundant because there will be parallel EBC syllabuses – secondary, particularly at Key Stage 4 (brief).

These factors produce a clear pecking order, with the primary core at one end and the secondary (especially KS4) foundation at the other.

As consultation proceeds, it is almost inevitable that pressure will applied to reduce these disparities by removing detail from the primary core and adding it to the primary and (especially) the secondary foundation.

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History Exemplifies the Tension Between Flexibility and Prescription

One could see this tendency in operation even prior to publication of draft programmes of study.

In mid-October, the Mail published another of its apparently well-briefed educational stories stating that the history programme of study would:

  • Give learners ‘a deeper understanding of history’
  • Offer ‘a narrative about British history and key international developments’
  • Include 200 key figures
  • Address at KS3 ’50 wider topics about the modern world’

Although the story offered up in mitigation the point that:

‘The current version of citizenship, which includes topics such as identities and diversity and how to negotiate, plan and take action has been cut back from 29 pages to one for 11 to 14-year-olds’

this does not alter the fact that such prescription in history cannot and will not be set out in such brevity.

The same story was repackaged twice on 29 and 30 December, with added detail of coverage:

  • Key Stage 1: placing events in chronological order; significant individuals such as explorers, scientists, rulers, saints, artists and inventors; and key events such as the Gunpowder Plot and history of the Olympic Games;
  • Key Stage 2: Ancient Greece, addressing myths, culture and individuals, including Alexander the Great; the rise and fall of the Roman Empire including the conquest of Britain and aspects of daily life; Anglo-Saxon and Viking settlement; changes in religious belief (pagans and Christians),; the Venerable Bede; development of a United English Kingdom including early kings such as Alfred, Athelstan and Ethelred;
  • Key Stage 3: Church, state and society in the medieval period, including the Norman Conquest, the feudal system and the growth of towns; King Henry II and Becket; King John, the barons, Magna Carta and the development of Parliament; King Edward I and wars with Wales and Scotland; Hundred Years War; Black Death; Peasants’ Revolt and Wars of the Roses; The Renaissance and Reformation in Britain; King Henry VIII, Wolsey, More and the Break from Rome; Queen Elizabeth I; the English Civil Wars, trial and execution of King Charles I; Cromwell; the Acts of Union; the emergence of Britain as a global power including industrial growth; Reform Acts; the early British Empire in America and the Caribbean; expansion of empire in Asia, Africa and Australia; the abolition of slavery; the French Revolution and Republic; the American War of Independence; Napoleonic France including Nelson and Wellington; developments in democracy, suffragettes and early Liberal reforms; the First World War, the Armistice, the impact of the war on British society; the rise of the dictators Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin; Second World War including Churchill and the Holocaust; post-war creation of the Welfare State, immigration, the change from Empire to Commonwealth; Cold War; the emergence of the EU.

There followed a battery of articles from those upset about the exclusion of Mary Seacole from the list of key figures. I took the view – admirably expressed in this article – that Mary Seacole is very much a second order issue because she is not a mandatory topic in the current National Curriculum and hence is taught in some schools and not others.

The more significant point seemed to be the difficulty in squaring  this extended list with a ‘skeleton National Curriculum’ including ‘very, very short’ programmes of study that ‘will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught’. But others thought differently, as we shall see.

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Late Skirmishes

The Government maintained a discreet silence over these leaks and provided few further details of the process following the conclusion of the consultation on the EBC, though the Secretary of State did confirm in December that the content framework for EBCs:

‘should follow quickly upon the heels of publishing what the draft secondary curriculum will look like, early in the new year’ (Q102 – Uncorrected Oral Evidence)

This left open the possibility that there would be a problematic gap between publication of the KS4 draft programmes of study and the EBC Framework, or that publication of the KS4 programmes would be delayed until the EBC Framework was ready.

The precise relationship between programmes of study and syllabuses remained firmly under wraps, however.

In a perceptive editorial called ‘The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, the Times Educational Supplement (TES) drew an analogy between the authoritarian and libertarian traditions within the Conservative Party and the Government’s approach to the National Curriculum Review.

It suggested that a libertarian approach to the curriculum, resulting in far greater autonomy for schools, is counterbalanced and framed by an authoritarian approach to examinations.

This is not absolutely accurate however, since one can see from the curious case of History above how both traditions struggle for dominance within the Curriculum Review itself. Moreover, the pressure for the restoration of unwanted detail does not always emerge from a Conservative authoritarian tradition, but sometimes from their Liberal partners within the coalition!

Meantime the shadow Minister – Stephen Twigg – confirmed that Labour would, in effect, abolish the National Curriculum by ‘extending the academies’ freedoms…to all schools.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/291097460934320128

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This was an entirely new announcement, to me at least, but it was hardly picked up by the commentariat. I have seen no further gloss or detail.

It shows Labour taking what must have been the Coalition’s original idea, discarded during the maturation of the EBC proposals, and making it their own. It will be interesting to see whether this line is maintained in the coming weeks.

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Last-Minute Delays: History Again

The long-awaited National Curriculum and KS4 Reform announcements were confidently expected in the final week of January 2013.

The DfE’s own timeline for schools was clear on this point (as were the Permanent Secretary’s own personal objectives, as published by the Cabinet Office).

Yet 31 January came and went without any activity.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/296867248344272897

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So why were the announcements delayed at the last minute?

The Deputy Prime Minister may have been one fly in the ointment.

On 29 January a newspaper story quoting Liberal Democrat ‘sources close to’ the DPM revealed that he was:

‘determined to put a stop to plans reportedly put in place by Education Minister Michael Gove to remove Mary Seacole, renowned for giving sanctuary to soldiers during the Crimean War, from the National Curriculum.’

Another Liberal Democrat councillor is quoted as saying that the DPM:

‘has also privately insisted that the removal of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum is “not going happen” ‘.

This seemed an odd battleground to choose, particularly since Seacole was never compulsory in the first place – and the pass has surely been sold by exempting academies from National Curriculum requirements anyway.

Maybe it can be put down to political opportunism, or simply personal rivalry.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/296691384470106112

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Meantime, 24 MPs signed an Early Day Motion expressing their concern.

History continued to grab the headlines as a leaked draft of the programme of study was reported to contain no reference to Queen Victoria or other great Victorians including Florence Nightingale, Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Alexander Graham Bell!

According to the report:

‘The leak caused a flurry of activity at the Department for Education and a spokesman insisted that Queen Victoria would be included in the final history curriculum, which is due to be published shortly.

He said that the leaked copy of the curriculum was one of a number of drafts and added it would be “ludicrous” to suggest such notable figures would be left out.’

But, if a succession of Great Victorians has to be named on the face of the programme of study, what does this say about the principle of flexibility over prescription?

Doesn’t the new draft programme risk becoming even more prescriptive than the current version, which allows schools to choose between a study of Victorian Britain or Britain since 1930 and includes these names only as examples?

‘Impact of significant individuals and events: Lord Shaftesbury and the welfare of children; Robert Owen, Elizabeth Fry and improving the lives of ordinary people; Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition; Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and the Crimean War; Robert Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and their impact on travel in Britain and to the wider world; David Livingstone, Mary Kingsley and world exploration; Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone.’

And meanwhile, Labour’s opportunism in condemning such omissions seems a little rich if they have really moved to a position where they would:

‘Extend the academies’ freedoms on the national curriculum to all schools’.

In another neck of the woods, there was an interesting story about a decision by the History Curriculum Association and Campaign for Real Education to distribute its alternative KS1-KS3 history syllabus to independent schools and academies.

This eight-page document is unlikely to radically reform history teaching, but it does exemplify the scope for an emerging market for curriculum specifications and materials. The bulk of development work – for KS1-3 at least – is expected to take place in schools, but there is nothing to prevent subject associations and specialist organisations from marketing their own solutions, most likely for particular market segments.

This provides an opportunity, as well as a threat. The downside is increasing fragmentation, with only school funding agreements, KS4 exam syllabuses and KS2 test requirements imposing any kind of commonality on schools not bound by the National Curriculum.

The upside is the scope to lever up standards through market-driven competition and the capacity to respond more thoroughly to particular needs, rather than via a one-size-fits-all approach.

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Last Minute Delays: Criticism of EBC Proposals

Perhaps more significantly, the Education Select Committee chose to publish a highly critical Report on the KS4 Reforms on 31 January.

The Government may not have wanted its own announcement to have clashed with this, or preferred to minimise criticism by ensuring that the EBC and National Curriculum announcements (and maybe a promised consultation on secondary accountability) were simultaneous.

The Select Committee expresses concern that ‘there is a lack of overall coherence in the Government’s approach to reform of the curriculum, qualifications and school accountability system’.

The Committee’s Report:

  • Calls for publication of secondary National Curriculum programmes of study and planned reforms of the accountability system as soon as possible, as well as publication of the ‘curriculum and educational outcomes’ for the new EBCs.
  • Says it has ‘not received evidence that GCSEs are so discredited that a new qualification is required…the Government must publish in full the results of its consultation and its analysis to justify its case that the brand is so damaged that it is beyond remedy.’
  • Expresses concern about the impact of the proposals on subjects outside the English Baccalaureate which ‘will be left with “discredited” GCSE qualifications for some time’.
  • Argues that ‘The Government must demonstrate that it has taken sufficient account of the likely unintended consequences of franchising [EBCs in each subject to a single exam board], such as an increase in pricing, and of the complexities of the tendering process’. It urges the decoupling of market reform from qualifications reform.
  • Says the Government should also: ‘make greater use of other levers at its disposal, such as the curriculum and supporting teachers’ professional development. The proposed timetable for reform must allow teachers sufficient time to prepare for the new qualifications. In addition, teachers must be provided with appropriate training and resources to support their teaching’.
  • Expresses serious concern over whether the proposals will help to raise standards, especially for the ’40 per cent plus of pupils who do not achieve the Government’s current floor standard’. It recommends that the government should reconsider proposals for a separate ‘Statement of Achievement’ for lower attaining students.
  • On the proposal for single tiered examinations wherever possible, recommends ‘that the Government takes advice from assessment and subject specialists on a subject-by-subject basis, as untiered assessment may be more effective and appropriate in some subjects than others’.
  • Recommends that the timetable is relaxed, because it is so tight that it risks compromising the quality of the qualifications developed as well as of the franchising process.

The Committee concludes:

‘There has been a lot of opposition to the proposals and many questions remain unanswered. Changes of this magnitude are best achieved with as wide support as possible across the education system, the wider economy, young people and their parents and, not least, the political spectrum. We call upon the Government to slow down the pace of reform.’

It remains to be seen which elements of the original proposals the Government will be prepared to sacrifice in the face of such criticism, if any.

The timetable and tiering seem particularly vulnerable, but several of the other points above are equally strong. There is a case for a fundamental rethink, but that would be politically unpalatable so some form of compromise is almost inevitable.

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The Secretary of State on Knowledge

On 5 February, Secretary of State Michael Gove made a ‘political’ speech at the Social Market Foundation which he used to set out his belief in the supremacy of knowledge.

When the speech was first arranged, both the organisers and the Minister must have expected the National Curriculum Review outcomes to have been in the public domain.

The fundamental arguments advanced in the speech are these:

  • Progressive education ‘sought to replace an emphasis on acquiring knowledge in traditional subjects with a new stress on children following where their curiosity led them…moved away from a set hierarchy of knowledge – literary canons, mathematical proofs, scientific laws, musical exercises and artistic traditions – towards a new emphasis on “learning to learn”. And one did not need to study a subject discipline to acquire these abstract skills.’
  • Social mobility has stalled over the last 40 years as a consequence of progressive education, because ‘the accumulation of cultural capital – the acquisition of knowledge – is the key to social mobility’. The acquisition of cultural capital is safe and well in parts of the private sector but there are (already) similar paragons in the state sector too.
  • The Left is hostile to excellence: ‘despite the abundant proof that children from every background can succeed academically there is still a remarkable resistance – especially among many on the left – to asking our education system to ensure more children do succeed.’ This was evidenced by negative reaction to the EBacc ‘even though it has exposed inequality in our society much more starkly than any Gini coefficient calculation could.’
  • Much of the criticism of the EBacc has been misplaced because the National Curriculum protects subjects outside it: ‘What is however – inviolably – in the national curriculum is a requirement to teach art and design, music, design and technology, while all schools must also teach religious education.  And there is a strict statutory entitlement that all schools must give all students the chance to choose a creative subject in their GCSE options.’
  • Returning to the core argument: ‘for the self-styled educational progressives nothing could be as redundant as imparting knowledge. If you want knowledge, they argue, Google it.’ But ‘unless you have knowledge – historical, cultural, scientific, mathematic – all you will find on Google is babble…And unless that knowledge is imparted at school, in a structured way, by gifted professionals, through subject disciplines – then many children will never, ever, find it. No matter how long they search across the borderless lands of the internet.’
  • However, cognitive science supports the case for knowledge (and so, by implication, Hirsch’s arguments about the accumulation of ‘cultural capital’) since ‘the definitive conclusion of all that research is that “the sort of skills that teachers want for students – such as the ability to analyse and think creatively – require extensive factual knowledge”’.
  • Hence the new National Curriculum ‘affirms – at every point – the critical importance of knowledge acquisition. We have stripped out the rhetorical afflatus, the prolix explanatory notes, the ethereal assessment guidance, the inexplicable level criteria, the managerial jargon and the piously vapid happy-talk and instead simply laid out the knowledge that every child is entitled to expect they be taught.
  • The new curriculum ‘will provide parents everywhere with a clear guide to what their children should know in every subject as they make their way through school. Of course, academies will have the freedom to vary any part of the national curriculum they consider appropriate….But with this new curriculum laying out expectations of what every child should be able to know with such clarity, all the pressures in our education system will be for greater rigour. And that will be reinforced by the changes we are planning for the national curriculum tests which all state primaries must ensure their pupils sit and the changes we propose for GCSEs and A-levels.’

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Where Does That Leave Us?

What can we draw from this speech, set in the context of the remainder of this post?

Despite the emphasis on knowledge it is clear that an effective curriculum depends on the interaction between knowledge and skills – one is just as essential as the other. Few contemporary advocates of progressive education would advocate the obliteration of knowledge acquisition and an exclusive focus on skills development.

But Gove the politician, rather than appearing in the guise of a sensible reformer restoring the balance between knowledge and skills, prefers to paint himself as the guardian of knowledge and his progressive opponents as skills-obsessed.

No evidence is adduced to support the contention that lack of cultural capital has been the key obstacle to social mobility. It may have been one factor but there are many others. In the schools context, attainment is key. No evidence is provided to make the case that schools have placed an artificial ceiling on the attainment of some learners by denying them access to cultural capital. Objections to the EBacc are a crude proxy at best.

The ‘excellence narrative’ is not entirely a matter of curriculum content and performance measures. As things stand, before the imminent  announcement, the removal of National Curriculum levels – and lack of discussion about how attainment and progression will be assessed in their absence – has been a far bigger issue.

Since some state schools are already providing an acceptably knowledge-driven curriculum under existing arrangements – and not all of them academies – the National Curriculum itself cannot be required to rectify the situation, especially since academies are not bound to observe it.

The new National Curriculum may have ‘laid out the knowledge that every child is entitled to expect they be taught.’ But that phrase hides a multitude of sins.

Does the National Curriculum define the requisite knowledge or does it provide a permissive framework for schools to adapt as they see fit? If it attempts different solutions in different subjects and key stages, are those distinctions justifiable and sustainable throughout the upcoming consultation and beyond?

Moreover, the National Curriculum can do no more than set out expectations which any academy can disregard. There is no entitlement, since parents will have no recourse if a school is not following any particular aspect of any programme of study.

The existence of this two-tier system, though it encourages innovation in one tier, will also make transition between schools far more problematic for many learners than it is at present (and especially at the end of KS2).

The references to statutory requirements and use of the word ‘inviolably’ are presumably signals that there will be no change to the existing requirement that schools must provide access at KS4 to a minimum of one course in each of four entitlement areas, one of which is ‘Arts’. This in turn suggests that Key Stage 4 will be retained as an entity. Neither of these were givens before the Secretary of State gave his speech.

Overall, the speech made a reasonable case for a stronger emphasis on knowledge in learning, but rather undermined itself by painting the issue in simplistic black-and-white either/or terms and by pretending that the Opposition is firmly in the enemy camp. It might reasonably be said to be half-right.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/299048454741704704

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There was no attempt to address the tension between prescription and autonomy, though that may well turn out to be the single biggest issue as we scrutinise the draft programmes of study during the formal consultation process.

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https://twitter.com/GiftedPhoenix/status/299056140677943296

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GP

February 2013