Doing differentiation differently?



TesseractThis post compares how we do differentiation with how it’s done elsewhere.

It explores the tension within education policy between autonomy and pedagogical prescription through the ‘forensic analysis’ of recent ministerial speech content.

It flags up the likelihood of further policy tensions following the recent (and welcome) shift from ‘no child left behind’ under the Coalition Government to ‘excellence for all’ under the new Administration.

It is a detailed critique built on evidence and should not be interpreted as critical of any government or office holder. Ministers of all political complexions in all recent governments have felt the need to influence pedagogy. This time round, however, a parallel emphasis on autonomy throws the issue into sharper relief, as does the present role of the EEF and the intended role of a College of Teaching.



This is the last in a set of four educational posts I delayed…

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The ‘Missing 520’



This post assesses the progress of English Russell Group universities in admitting students from areas with low levels of higher education participation.

It reapplies a methodology used previously by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC) to measure the success of these 20 universities in recruiting young, full-time first degree entrants from low participation neighbourhoods (LPNs).

It uses data on recruitment from POLAR3 Quintile 1 (background below) as reported in the UK Performance Indicators for Higher Education (UKPIs). The analysis compares outcomes for 2010/11 with those for 2014/15 to assess progress over the last five years for which data is available.



Back in 2004 the Sutton Trust published ‘The Missing 3,000 – State Schools Under-Represented at Leading Universities’. From time to time reference to ‘the missing 3,000’ still reappears in the fair access literature.

This calculation was based the performance…

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Why isn’t pupil premium closing excellence gaps?



This post:


  • Reviews the most recent statistical evidence of attainment gaps between disadvantaged high attainers and their peers.
  • Questions why pupil premium is having no impact on these excellence gaps and
  • Proposes action to close the gaps by raising attainment, so improving the life chances of these learners.



I have written extensively about the phenomenon of excellence gaps, which I have defined as:

‘The difference between the percentage of disadvantaged learners who reach a specified age- or stage-related threshold of high achievement – or who secure the requisite progress between two such thresholds – and the percentage of all other eligible learners that do so.’

The first part of this post reviews what the most recent DfE statistical publications reveal about the size of these gaps and the trend over the last few years.

It draws on:

  • SFR 47/2015: National curriculum assessments at key stage 2:…

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Policy Exchange to the Rescue?



This post is mainly about Policy Exchange’s plans for ‘super-selective schools’, as proposed on Total Politics and reprised in Schools Week



Blue_cut-coneIt’s been a strange six months.

Last July I officially retired the Gifted Phoenix Blog and the @GiftedPhoenix Twitter feed, leaving the former open access and converting the latter into a private archive.

I had embarked on both with the notion that consumers of these free services would reciprocate with a steady stream of paid consultancy. But I found myself devoting all my time to producing freebies while the trickle of consultancy work dried up entirely. So after a five-year stint it was time to pull the plug.

In late August I launched my new Eponymous Blog and opened a parallel @TimDracup Twitter feed. I still cover education issues, alongside other interests, but I will only blog or tweet when I have something I particularly want…

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