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The perennial problem of primary high attainers

Eponymous

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This post features analysis of the 2016 primary transition matrices, but mostly raises awkward questions.

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Context

Publication of the 2016 primary performance tables is imminent, together with revised national figures for achievement of the KS2 higher standard and new breakdowns by pupil characteristics, including receipt of pupil premium.

We also await the results of the TIMSS 2015 international comparisons study, which will show whether the proportion of pupils achieving the advanced benchmark in maths and science at age 9/10 has improved since 2011.

But the evidence already released paints a worrying picture of primary high attainment in 2016.

This includes:

  • The provisional data on high scaled scores in SFR39/2016 and

This short post synthesises that evidence, providing a staging post from which to launch analysis of the…

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Making sense of centres of excellence

Eponymous

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This post probes the ‘centres of excellence’ proposal in the selection green paper.

Schools that work for everyone’ (September 2016) includes within its chapter on selection three proposals for ‘existing selective schools to do more to support children at non-selective schools’

This context is critical for understanding much of the confusion over centres of excellence. They are ostensibly a means by which existing (and potentially new) selective schools can extend their provision to learners attending other institutions.

Some wrongly believe they create additional de facto selective schools. I do not qualify with ‘ostensibly’ because I accept that argument, but because:

  • It is not strictly necessary for a selective school to be involved and
  • It seems doubtful whether selective school pupils could participate in such a centre alongside their non-selective peers.

The proposal in question is designed to ‘encourage multi-academy trusts to select within their trust’. But this…

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Advancing by slow degrees

Eponymous

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This post reports five-year trends in the admission of disadvantaged students to selective universities, as revealed by the government’s key stage 5 destinations data.

This half decade coincided almost exactly with the lifetime of a government that was strongly committed to social mobility through higher education. What does the destinations data reveal about the progress it made – and what lessons might be drawn by those of us still striving to make a difference?

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Preamble

In October 2016 DfE published a statistical first release containing provisional key stage 5 destinations data for academic year 2014/15, so creating a five-year sequence of data stretching back to 2010/11.

The release – Destinations of KS4 and KS5 pupils: 2015 (provisional) – received scant attention from the education commentariat, coinciding as it did with the publication of two other bulletins containing provisional 2016 GCSE and A level results.

But this dataset is…

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Do grammar schools close attainment gaps?

Eponymous

This experimental post revisits the question whether all grammar schools are effective in closing attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers.

Ministers have asserted as much in recent speeches, but they are relying on a single piece of research, now more than a decade old. The Education Policy Institute has countered with qualified statistical comparisons between selective and comprehensive schools

This post explores what can be deduced about the effectiveness of individual grammar schools from published School Performance Tables data. It is divided into three sections:

  • Commentary on the evidence behind the Government’s statement and on the Education Policy Institute’s counter-analysis.
  • Experimental analysis of 2015 Performance Tables data relating to several different headline measures.
  • Comparison between these new findings and my previous Performance Tables analysis covering the period from 2011 to 2013.

The middle section is is very much a work in progress and I welcome your constructive…

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Be careful what you wish for

Eponymous

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This extended post is about the selection green paper and the prime ministerial speech preceding it.

I come at this issue from a different position to most.

It is of course essential to ensure that the government’s proposals do not unduly disadvantage the majority of learners.

But it is equally important to consider their impact on the minority that the government expects to benefit directly from increased selection.

For the sake of convenience – and sidestepping the definitional and terminological issues – let us call them ‘disadvantaged high attainers’ or the ‘disadvantaged most able’.

The first section below sets the issue in context and explains my title. I have proposed seven core principles which I invite you to debate and dispute. Consensus would be great but, failing that, discussion helps to expose the ideological fault lines that bedevil any rational discussion of selection, or wider support for the most…

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Rescue Plan (or how to get from where we are to where we ought to be)

Eponymous

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This post:

  • Reviews progress to date on white paper policies to improve the education of higher attaining learners
  • Considers some wider implications of the white paper’s commitment to equality of educational opportunity, regardless of background and prior attainment, and
  • Proposes a dedicated national centre, based in a leading university, to specialise in the education and progression of higher attaining learners, from reception to graduation.

There is also a leitmotif: that arguments for and against more grammar schools must always be set in the wider context of how best to educate high attainers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds

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Initial reflections – a summary of sorts

Rarely have I been less confident of the prospects for securing a coherent policy response to the needs of high attaining learners, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Expectations were raised by the recognition of past ‘neglect’, the new equal opportunities vision and three…

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What’s amiss with the ITT core content framework?

Eponymous

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This post discusses the gap between what the schools white paper said would be in the ITT core content framework and what was actually published.

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Background

In a previous post – Differentiation in the ITT core content framework (March 2016) – I described the origins of the framework and its intended focus on differentiation, including for the most able.

‘DfE should commission a sector body…to develop a framework of core content for ITT. We feel it is critical that a framework is developed by the sector, rather than by central government.’

An annex outlining starting points for a core framework includes:

Differentiation – ITT should equip teachers so they can ensure that all pupils in the class, including lower and higher achievers, should make progress and keep pace with the curriculum.’

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Sir Michael on the most able

Eponymous

HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw devoted his monthly commentary for June 2016 to the education of our most able learners.

He has consistently championed the education of the most able in non-selective secondary schools, having instigated two Ofsted survey reports on this topic, published in June 2013 and March 2015 respectively.

This new commentary is a reaction to the negligible progress achieved since the 2015 report. That contained similar statements about the very limited headway made since 2013.

This post examines the new commentary, setting it in the context of the two previous surveys, the 2016 schools white paper and wider education policy. It:

  • Asks why it is proving so hard for Ofsted to secure system-wide effective practice, despite new emphasis in the common inspection framework and inspection handbooks.
  • Poses some fundamental questions about definitions, terminology and our expectations of the most able learners in both primary and secondary schools…

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Exposing the implications of ‘educational excellence everywhere’

Eponymous

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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

Eponymous

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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.

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Background

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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