X Close

Institute of Education Blog

Home

Expert opinion from academics at the UCL Institute of Education

Menu

How should we assess school students now that exams have been cancelled?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 January 2021

Jake Anders, Lindsey Macmillan, Gill Wyness, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities

This article was originally published by Economics Observatory

To avoid a repeat of last summer’s exam chaos, the government must decide quickly on alternative assessment measures. There is a strong case for A-level students to receive in-class testing – with flexible timing and content – to take account of differences in their learning experiences.

While the uncertainties of a global pandemic make this one of the most volatile periods of education policy in history, if there is one lesson we should all have learned since last March, it is that indecision is costly. This has proved true repeatedly for public health and looks just as relevant for education.

As we saw with last summer’s exam fiasco, the failure to act decisively led to there being little alternative but to (more…)

A Covid generation: who are the winners and losers of a disrupted school year?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 January 2021

PIRO4D / Pixabay

Melanie Ehren, Martijn Meeter and Anne Fleur Kortekaas.

The term ‘Covid generation’ has become the new buzz word to refer to children and adolescents under 20 who are affected by school closures and other disruptions.

A report by UNICEF estimates that globally, more than 570 million students – 33 per cent of all enrolled students worldwide –were affected by country-wide school closures in 30 nations as of November 2020. They will have had varying access to remote and online teaching during these closures, and many students from disadvantaged backgrounds will have had little to no learning.

Some believe the lost learning of this generation will have a detrimental effect on the rest of their school and employment careers. This phenomenon is called the ‘Matthew effect’, after the Evangelist’s saying that “For whoever has, to him shall be given […] but whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has”: (more…)

A few words in the OFSTED framework could help boost the digital skills children need for learning outside of school

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 November 2020

Sara Hawley.

While the pandemic continues and individual pupils, groups or classes stay home self-isolating, the DFE has made remote learning part of schools’ legal duty for now. OFSTED has suspended routine inspections but is carrying out interim visits (without grading schools) to understand the lay of the land.  Yesterday, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman published a report detailing the skills many children had lost during months of absence from school and acknowledging that home learning remains ‘patchy’.

For those of us working in and around schools in England over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to read of the huge variation in online learning provision across the state sector now and during the spring lockdown. Funding and policy choices made over recent years have in many ways taken things backwards. The abolition of BECTA (British Educational Communications Technology Agency) in 2010 meant the end of a coherent national strategy for online learning resources and infrastructure.

Since then, schools have been left to their own devices, navigating a baffling range of commercial options, often relying on any expertise held by enthusiasts among their staff. Compounding the difficulty has been (more…)

Helping England’s school system to get better at getting better

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 November 2020

IOE Events.

Does England have a school system that’s good at getting better? And do the Covid-19 disruptions offer an opportunity to think more radically about how we accelerate higher standards for all? These were the questions raised in our latest debate – What if… we wanted more effective school improvement?

We were delighted to be joined by former London Schools Commissioner Sir Tim Brighouse; Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts; Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark Schools and, in the chair, TES editor Ann Mroz.

Taking us on a potted history of school improvement, the debate talked us through the emergence, in the 1970s, of the very idea that schools could be improved, to the heyday of Local Education Authorities, ambitious initiatives like the London Challenge, and on to the ‘school-led’ epoch we have today.

It’s a journey (more…)

Uganda: lockdown brought increased inequality and violence for young people

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 October 2020

Jenny Parkes and Simone Datzberger.

Young people the world all over have been deeply affected by lockdown measures due to COVID-19. Our new study on Young people, inequality and violence during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda offers insights from young people on how and why the pandemic may be amplifying inequalities, thereby creating the conditions for multiple forms of violence.

In March 2020, the Ugandan government introduced stringent lockdown measures – closing schools and businesses, banning public gatherings, restricting travel, and introducing a night-time curfew. Against this backdrop we wanted to learn from young people first-hand how response measures during the early stages of the pandemic have affected their lives. Thanks to strong local partnerships and a well-established collaboration with Ugandan researchers, we were able to conduct phone interviews from May-June 2020 with 18 girls and 16 boys (aged 16-19 years) at a time when lockdown measures were still in place. All of our interviewees are participants in  longitudinal research (2017-2022) for the Contexts of Violence in Adolescence Cohort study (CoVAC). This allowed us to relate findings from our phone interviews to their biographical narratives recounted to our researchers over the past two years.

Most of the young people interviewed faced financial hardship: loss of livelihoods left families without the means to purchase basic (more…)

Education and Covid-19: five needs that must be met to provide vital learning lifelines for children and teachers

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 October 2020

Vagner-Xaruto / Pixabay

Rose Luckin.

The latest reports from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have some interesting lessons for the UK as we all try to ensure that pandemic compliant teaching and learning are effective wherever they happen: at home, at school on the bus or in the park.

Yes, the data is from 2018, but the dramatic changes we are going through are unlikely to invalidate the learning we can and must glean. Critical links in our education ecosystem are missing and that breaks what could be a learning lifeline for students, but it’s not just the technology that learners lack, it’s the human touch too.

We already know that the pandemic has highlighted discrepancies in access to technology. However, the PISA data shine a light on ways in which we are not meeting some of the basic student needs that must be met for effective remote learning.

There is general agreement that learners need four key things in order to stand a chance of learning remotely if and when they are unable to attend school, and the PISA data provides some support for a fifth (more…)

How the COVID-19 home-schooling experience can boost creativity and enhance teacher feedback

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 October 2020

Sara Bubb.

You might expect that the lockdown imposed by Covid-19 last spring would undermine schools’ progress in engaging pupils with more creative teaching and learning. But in the Norwegian municipality where I am involved in school improvement, this has not been the case at all.

Much has been written about the negative impact of the pandemic on pupils’ education but research that I conducted with Mari-Ana Jones has found much to celebrate about remote teaching and learning.

When the Covid-19 lockdown hit, it looked like a severe obstacle to the gains in creative teaching made between September and March, but surveys in April 2020 of teachers, parents and carers and pupils aged 6-9 and 10-16 showed that was far from the case. There was more creative learning, better progress, more useful feedback and greater student independence. School leaders (more…)

Moving up to secondary school during a pandemic is difficult. Here are some ways for teachers to help

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 September 2020

 Sandra Leaton Gray and Jane Perryman.

When researchers visit schools to ask young people about their experiences of moving up to secondary school, there are a number of repeating themes. They are excited by the idea of new school uniforms, learning new subjects in specialist rooms, using special equipment, meeting new teachers, joining interesting clubs, and making new friends.

However, moving up to secondary school can also cause young people to develop worries. Things like getting lost on a large school site, having lots of homework, being bullied, and not having enough friends will often cause concern. Schools are well aware of this phenomenon, of course, and generally handle young people’s anxieties very well, which means that by the end of the first term, the vast majority have settled into their new educational homes and can barely remember what it was like being at primary school. The strategies used by secondary schools to encourage this settling in process include liaising closely with primary staff, welcoming Year 6 pupils in for taster days, and visiting them in their primary schools. It’s a robust formula based on research into the relationship between adolescent development, socialisation and school attainment, and it’s something UK schools usually do pretty well.

This year it’s very different. Many young people have not been in school since March, and others have had little (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…)

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…)