Exposing the implications of ‘educational excellence everywhere’



Several of my recent educational posts have mentioned the new-found commitment to ‘educational excellence everywhere’.

This was the title selected for the March 2016 white paper, but it is also the strategic goal at the heart of this government’s education policy. It should influence every part of the white paper, informing every educational decision taken while the government remains in office.

I have drawn attention to the ‘clear blue water’ between this new goal and the default position adopted by the previous coalition government, perhaps best described as ‘no child left behind’.

One is focused on supporting all learners to maximise their achievement; the other on eradicating the ‘long tail’ by concentrating disproportionately on the lower end of the spectrum, so reducing the span of achievement and improving performance against standard national benchmarks.

Both positions give due priority to closing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged learners but, under…

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The HE white paper underwhelms on fair access



This post compares white paper plans to strengthen fair access with the proposals set out in the green paper.

It assesses each element of these plans and whether they amount to a convincing national strategy.

It also considers whether the white paper is likely to bring about a much-needed improvement in the recruitment of disadvantaged students to highly selective universities.



The higher education green paper ‘Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’ appeared in November 2015.

My analysis: ‘Access and participation in the HE Green Paper’ (November 2015) assessed the proposed targets and the government’s initial seven-fold plan for achieving them.

More recently I published ‘A blueprint for fair access?’ (April 2016). This offered an update on developments since the green paper, including progress made against each of the seven elements in the plan.

It proposed that the…

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Ofqual’s W-turn on GCSE grade 9



Ofqual is attempting a double-U-turn on how to define grade 9 in the new GCSE scale.

This will affect the highest attaining learners in all our schools, all staff who teach them and all those who rely on GCSE grades to select high-attaining students, including university admissions staff.

It also has implications for the performance of all state-funded schools on government accountability measures, so it is not small beer.

You might be forgiven for missing this, since it was announced in the graveyard slot on Friday 22 April, while most educators’ attention was diverted to the furore over forced academisation.

A brief press release announced a second consultation on setting GCSE grade standards. We had anticipated an exercise focused on the subjects first introduced in 2018.

But Ofqual is also proposing to reverse its previous decision, already once revised, on the definition of grade 9 boundaries (and indeed grade…

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TIMSS PISA PIRLS: Morgan’s targets scrutinised



Simple_CV_Joint_animatedThis post examines ministerial targets for improving England’s educational performance by 2020, as measured by international comparisons studies.

It explores the evolution of these targets, how they might be interpreted and the prospects for achieving them given likely outcomes from the next round of reports, scheduled for publication in December 2016/2017.

  • PISA 2015 results (maths, reading and science at age 15) will be published in December 2016, some seven months hence. PISA is a triennial survey so there will be one further set of results in December 2019 before the deadline for achievement of the target.
  • TIMSS 2015 outcomes (maths and science at ages 9/10 and 13/14) will also be published in December 2016. TIMSS is conducted every four years, so the results of TIMSS 2019 should be available by December 2020, just as the deadline expires.
  • PIRLS 2016 results (reading aged 9/10) will not be published until December…

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