The Moral Maze discusses education

 The topic for the  Moral Maze on the 17th June was education.   As usual Michael Buerk  is in the chair, the title of the discussion is:

 Can you have a system of education that is egalitarian and fair?

The team consider whether academic standards are being scarified in the pursuit of fairness.

The discussion comes in response to  comments by Ralph Tabberer, the former director general of schools at the DCSF.  He  attacks the idea of ‘egalitarianism’ in comprehensive schools arguing that excellence is not being pursued in schools, because fairness is.  As a result bright children are being held back.

The Moral Maze team consists of Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas; Michael Portillo, former Conservative MP; Melanie Phillips, author of All Must Have Prizeswhich is a critique of education egalitarianism;  Clifford Longley, journalist who has specialised in religious and moral affairs.

The programme is available on the BBC iplayer until the 24th June.


Scrapping SATs?

The debate over SATs intensified this week when the Conservatives announced that they would ‘scrap’ primary school SATs for 11 year olds.

At first glance this sounds like dramatic news, and a great victory for those who have long campaigned for the abolition of SATs.  However the announcement does not mean the end of testing.

In their place an incoming Conservative Government would instead introduce testing for pupils in Year 7 (the 1st year of secondary school) which would be assessed by teachers.

So, how has the Government,  teachers and their unions responded to these proposals?

Firstly the new Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker described the proposals as “half-baked”, and a “huge step backwards”. 


The main argument is that as a result of the SATs being taken in Year 7 this would remove accountability from primary schools.  This means it would not be possible to see how well an individual primary school had performed, this would also mean that parents would not know how well their local school was performing.  Politically this is particularly significant as SATs and League tables were introduced, by a Conservative Government partly to make schools accountable and so that parents could make ‘informed decisions’ when choosing a school for their child.

Continue reading “Scrapping SATs?”

SATs Marking problems

In 2008 the marking of SATs tests taken by 11 and 14 year olds in UK schools were beset by problems leading to the delay in their publication.  Later that year, ETS Europe, the company responsible for running the tests had its five year contract terminated by the Department for Children Schools and Families.

In its place Edexcel was appointed to run this years tests.  It has agreed to deliver  99.9% of test results 7 July 2009.

Today however there are reports that the delays are set to be repeated with the 2009 test results. 

Writing in the Guardian, Polly Curtis reports  that hundreds of applicants who had applied to be examiners for the 2009 tests were wrongly disqualified from marking, leading to extra scripts being allocated to the remaining examiners.

Edexcel has had to recruit extra examiners in order to fill the places of those examiners wrongly disqualified.

A spokesperson for the QCA , the body for ensuring the quality of the test said:

“We are working hard to deliver results on time”

Once again issues of marking standards surround the SATs as well as the prospect of delays.

State Schools abandoning separate sciences?

Today’s Guardian  reports on the apparent ‘new’ trend for state schools to offer a combined GCSE in Science rather than offering separate subjects, i.e. biology, chemistry, physics.  The Conservatives have seized on this as evidence of dumbing down.  The article can be read here:

State schools abandon separate science GCSEs

But is this really a sign of apocalyptic doom?  Perhaps not. A historical perspective is useful, science was taught in some Grammar Schools, considered to be elite institutions,  in the 1940’s as General Science.    Some politicians would like to see a return to Grammar Schools, and selection, so maybe this includes the reintroduction of General Science.