Education Update – June – July 2013

Selected items from the National scene as reported by TES

7th June 2013

Fair Admissions Campaign

The FAC is calling for an end to registration at schools based on religious belief.  They want all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open to every student regardless of faith.

14th June 2013

Inspectors of schools empowered for emergency inspections

School inspectors have been ordered by the government to carry out emergency inspections of any school suspected of fostering religious extremism.  The DfE established, in 2010, a Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division, to ensure children and young people are safeguarded from extremist views in or out of school hours.

New GCSE grades

  • A* to G grades will be replaced by grades 1 to 8 with tougher pass marks.
  • An end to Coursework and modular schemes unless exams cannot test certain skills or knowledge
  • Tiered exam papers for students of different abilities
  • Re-sit opportunities reduced except for Maths and Science

12th July 2013

New national curriculum

Michael Gove appears to have responded to some of the criticisms over the proposed new national curriculum after receiving 17,000 consultation responses. However, opinion is divided between those who find it too prescriptive and those who find it not challenging enough to prepare children for the 21st century. The history curriculum has been re-written and no longer requires a chronological sequential approach, allowing teachers a choice of topics within specified historical periods. Design and Technology curriculum has also been revised.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma

Despite it being popular with some of the countries with fast-growing economies, the number of UK state schools offering this has dropped from 137 in 2010 to 86 in 2013. The number of private schools offering it has risen to 80 in the same period.

19th July 2013

Are PISA rankings ‘utterly wrong’?

Two academics are challenging the accuracy of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) the international assessment rankings for educational league tables in their recent academic papers. Professor Svend Kreiner, a statistician from the University of Copenhagen, believes the model used is inappropriate and challenges their reliability.  In addition, Dr Hugh Morrison, from Queens University Belfast, says the model is ‘utterly wrong’  because the Rasch model used makes an impossible claim of being able to measure pupils’ ability independently of the question they answer. Education minister, Michael Gove, used Pisa’s assessment of the falling UK rankings as a main reason for his educational reforms. One area of contention is the way in which reading scores are allocated.

Gov’t plans for national ranking exams

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, announced plans for a national test at 11 yrs for every pupil and testing for all pupils entering Reception classes at 4-5 yrs of age. He also announced a rise in the pupil premium to £1,300 per pupil for those who receive free meals.

26th July 2013

Pisa tests challenged (see also TES update for 19/07/13)

Pisa assessments are carried out every 3 years by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).  The next Pisa results from Pisa 2012 will be published on 3rd December 2013.  Pisa aims to provide a snapshot comparison between 15yr olds in different countries.


  • Culturally and linguistically biased towards certain countries
  • Snapshot nature – it looks at a different cohort of 15yr olds every 3 years, summarising a country’s entire education system within 3 aspects – Maths, Science and English
  • Questions testing reading are very selective and only approx. 10% of students were tested on all 28 reading questions

However, the OECD has responded saying that accusations made so far in TES are completely unjustified.  It criticises Kreiner and Christenson’s papers which challenge Pisa that they (Kreiner and Christenson) have based their analysis on a small subset of pupils in each country whereas Pisa samples include a fully representative sample of at least 4000 students.