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Celebrating Geoff Whitty’s contribution to education research

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 September 2020

Emma Wisby and Andrew Brown.

As Covid-19 was reaching its first peak towards the end of March, we were preparing to publish an edited collection in honour of one of the IOE’s former Directors, the late Professor Geoff Whitty: Knowledge, Policy and Practice in Education and the Struggle for Social Justice – Essays Inspired by the Work of Geoff Whitty. Our plans to celebrate the book by gathering together friends, colleagues and interested readers remain on hold. In the meantime, here we reflect on the project and how it builds on Geoff’s scholarship as one of the foremost sociologists of education of his generation.

Geoff conducted incisive and powerful research studies across the themes of knowledge, policy and practice in education.

He was also a prominent voice in examining the field of education studies itself and its relationship to policy and practice.  The collection takes inspiration from all those (more…)

Breadth and balance: the essential elements of a recovery curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 September 2020

Dominic Wyse.

Government guidance for schools reopening this month originally suggested that national curriculum subjects could be dropped in order to focus on key areas such as phonics. In the latest welcome U-turn, the guidance now says that “the curriculum remains broad and ambitious”. But at the same time it notes that “Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021,” and goes on to give details.

The key question is, will the guidance’s emphasis on aspects such as “disapplication”, “the essentials”, and “phonics” lead to some subjects in the curriculum being neglected? The history of governments’ national curriculum reform in England suggests this will be the case.

The guidance continues, “For pupils in Reception, teachers should also assess and address gaps in language, early reading and mathematics, particularly ensuring children’s acquisition of phonic knowledge and extending their vocabulary. Settings should follow updates to the EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage] disapplication guidance.”

And, “For pupils in key stages 1 and 2, school leaders are expected to prioritise identifying gaps and re-establish good progress in the (more…)

A-level debacle has shattered trust in educational assessment

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 August 2020

Students protest against A-level results, August 16 2020.
I. Salci/Shutterstock

Mary Richardson, UCL, first published on The Conversation

After five days of uncertainty and anxiety, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on August 17 that students in England would be awarded their centre assessment grades (CAGs) this summer – that is, the grade their school or college expected they would most likely have attained had they taken their exams – or their moderated grade, whichever was higher.

The announcement follows widespread outrage after it emerged that the poorest students were hardest hit by the inadequacies of the algorithm used to moderate their grades.

Collective sighs of relief were palpable as teachers no longer faced the stress of an appeals process while also preparing to start one of the most complex and challenging years of their careers. Students, however, (more…)

Pick ‘n Mix approach to results is causing Allsorts of anxiety for students and damage of trust

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 August 2020

SHAWSHANK61 / Pixabay

Mary Richardson.

At 8am on 13 August, some five months after the coronavirus took hold of our lives in England, a generation of young people waited anxiously for the release of their Advanced (A) Level results. News reporting is always very excitable on this day and online news feeds and social media streams are traditionally filled with images of young people jumping for joy. The 2020 results day has been a more visually muted affair, but that isn’t solely due to the pandemic. The increase in attainment of A and A* grades almost 28%) has been overshadowed by the fact that, due to the way the data has been modelled, two in every five grades were lower than those predicted by the candidates’ teachers and the poorest students are hardest hit.

Earlier this year, I was cautiously optimistic about the enhanced role that teacher judgment would play in this year’s awarding cycle and how it could change our view of the professional work of teachers. Concern about the potential bias involved in teacher judgment has dominated much of the assessment discourse this year, but the public were assured that this was only one part of the awarding process to determine results. However, things began to look very diffferent a week ago in Scotland, when it was found that some 120,000 grades had been moderated downwards by the regulator.  A public outcry resulted in a swift u-turn via the First Minister and teacher grades were reinstated.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Schools Minister Nick Gibb were looking anxiously over the border on the afternoon prior to results day in England as they announced their triple lock, or as I like to call it, their “pick ‘n’ mix” approach to selecting A level results in 2020.

How about a (more…)

The Covid-19 cohort and the ‘mess’ of public exams: reconsidering roles and responsibilities

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 August 2020

Melanie Ehren and Christopher Chapman.

On 18 March the Secretary of State for Education told Parliament that, in response to the Coronavirus  pandemic, schools and colleges in England would shut to all but the children of critical workers and vulnerable children until further notice. Exams scheduled for the summer would not take place.

Government worked with the education sector and Ofqual to develop a process to provide calculated GCSE, AS and A level grades for each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible and ensure consistency across the sector. The process involves the following steps: (more…)

Predicted grades – what do we know, and why does it matter?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 August 2020

Gill Wyness.

Whose grades are being predicted?

Predicted grades are a common feature of the English education system, with teachers’ predictions of pupils’ A level performance forming the basis of university applications each year.

What’s different this year?

The Covid-19 pandemic has put these predictions under the spotlight. The cancellation of exams means that all year 11 and year 13 pupils will instead receive ‘calculated grades’ based on teacher predictions.

How well do teachers predict grades?

Teachers’ predicted grades have been shown to be inaccurate but the majority of inaccurate grades are over-predicted – in other words, too high. (more…)

Ending a pernicious split: how to get beyond childcare as a commodity to education as every child’s right

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 August 2020

Peter Moss.

Early childhood services in England need to be transformed. The split between childcare and education, firmly embedded in our deeply flawed system, is one of the key problems. The solution is to stop focusing on childcare and reform our early childhood provision as an education service.

This is a central argument of a new book I have edited with Claire Cameron, with contributions from academics at or associated with UCL Institute of Education.

After the second world war England’s early childhood services suffered policy neglect for decades and the split between ‘daycare’ services (under health) and school-based services (under education) was ignored. Then the 1997 election brought landmark change. Early childhood became a New Labour government priority, followed by a start on integration. All services came under education and a common system of regulation (Ofsted and the Early Years Foundation Stage) was implemented.

But integration stalled before the difficult bits were tackled. Services remained fragmented, with (more…)

New study: empowering teachers, children and parents is the way to achieve the best early childhood education and care

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 July 2020

Yuwei Xu, Clare Brooks, Jie Gao and Eleanor Kitto.

The need to educate young children from home during the Covid crisis has caused early years staff and parents to rethink their roles.

At the IOE’s Centre for Teacher and Early Years Education (CTEY) we carried out an analysis of 19 national and regional early childhood curriculum frameworks across five continents. It reveals that most education systems see empowering educators, parents, and children as essential for effective and high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).

Government evaluation reports on those national frameworks make it clear that educators, parents, and children should all be involved both in the policy making of (more…)

We must rethink league tables in light of the Covid crisis

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 July 2020

John Jerrim and Loic Menzies.

Unions and head teachers have said it would be unfair to compare schools’ performance next year, given the uneven impact of lockdown. They are right. There is clear evidence that there have been considerable disparities in education under Covid and that disadvantaged pupils have been systematically disadvantaged. However, whilst next year’s results will be more volatile and uncertain than ever, year-to-year variation unfairly distorts school performance measures every year, not just when covid strikes.

Fortunately, there is a simple way of reducing the distorting effects of…

Read the rest of this article at schoolsweek.co.uk 

The home schooling quagmire: it’s about more than laptops

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 May 2020

Jennie Golding.

The move to ‘home schooling’ has, quite rightly, triggered a storm of commentaries about how the gap between the disadvantaged and the middle class will widen.

Last week the House of Commons Education Select Committee conducted a session on the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services. Several MPs, particularly from more economically challenged northern constituencies, expressed their fears about inequity of access to education during school closures. The answer to many of their questions was ‘We don’t yet know’ – whether there is a correlation between pupils’ time studying and their socioeconomic position, how many disadvantaged learners are not eligible for free laptops – or when and how schools will re-open to more young people.

Committee chair Robert Halfon warned that the UK could be facing a ‘wave of educational poverty’ as a result of the lockdown – and of course there is a moral imperative to prioritise the needs of those who are already disadvantaged. However, emerging evidence suggests the picture is complex, and there are serious challenges across all social groups.

My own current research with primary schools and A Level providers has serendipitously (more…)