March 26, 2015
March 23, 2015
This astonishing picture from the Indian state of Bihar, published by several news agencies (also as part of a Daily Telegraph video report), provides a chilling example of the faltering relationship between educational credentials and the labour market. Some were apparently trying to hand in answer sheets folded into paper planes to the 12th grade pupils sitting their exams
Ironically it’s in the faster growing economies where ‘education fever’ is most extreme. Last year, over 2,000 Chinese students were caught cheating during a national exam, using elaborate high-tech gear to do so, with Chinese state television reporting that invigilators detected abnormal radio signals from an illegal frequency during national licensing tests for pharmacists in Shaanxi province.
In South Korea where university tuition fees are the third most expensive out of all the OECD countries, suicide is the largest cause of death among young people aged 15-24 years. Like China, UK policy makers have looked at South Korea for inspiration in the push to raise standards.
In the UK, thank goodness, responses are relatively mild in comparison, although a third of parents move house to get into a ‘good’ school catchment area and up to one in four now rely on tutors. Appealing against exam outcomes is now something quite normal, with the number of inquiries questioning GCSE and A-level grades up by 48% to 450,500 last year, according to exam watchdog Ofqual.
But in the 21st global economy, with education now primarily about ‘passing’ rather than ‘learning’, even piling up exams isn’t enough to help young people move on in life and as a result, education, unless it is radically changed and given a new meaning, will increasingly experience a ‘legitimacy’ crisis. Becoming like trying to climb up a downwards escalator, as qualifications become devalued, you have to climb further and faster just to stand still. Unfortunately the Bilar parents have taken climbing to a new level.
March 9, 2015
The National Union of Teachers has been using the run up to the General Election to promote its policies http://www.teachers.org.uk/node
Education researchers who support the Union have published supporting material
Download reclaiming schools
Downloaded chapters from Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley’s Education Beyond the Coalition still available at
February 27, 2015
While unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds has fallen (down nearly 200 000 compared with a year ago), it still remains much higher than that for the population as a whole. What’s more the figures for the last quarter of 2014 show a small increase.
Latest ONS figures for NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) show a much lower annual decline as well as an increase on the last quarter. At 963 000, over 13% (almost 1 in 7) of all 16-24 year olds still classified as NEET, while over 15% of those 18-24 are in this category. The discrepancy between the number of NEETs and those ‘unemployed’ is the result of the relatively large number who are ‘economically inactive’ – over half a million. Obviously a number of these will have long term illnesses or disabilities, caring or parenting responsibilities and will not be able to work; but many will also have given up looking. The ONS statistics do not include further data on these categories.
However, the figures do show that 60 000 16/17 year olds remain in the NEET category, 4% of this age group and that this has barely changed since the increase in the educational and training participation rate to 17. This may indicate the difficulties in implementing this policy or in cajoling young people into education, if they don’t want to be there.
February 22, 2015
Post for Reclaiming Schools
Schools have been criticised by government ministers and Ofsted for not doing enough to promote apprenticeships, but do they serve as a real alternative to university? Our research shows that most apprenticeships are low-skilled and ‘dead-end’ and don’t guarantee employment after completion.
There are of course some very good schemes that lead to well-paid skilled jobs, but these are massively over-subscribed, with BT and Rolls Royce apprenticeships attracting more applicants per place than Oxford engineering degrees. The employment areas where apprenticeships are more likely to be available are in routine office work, health and social care, or retail. Engineering apprenticeships are still in short-supply and in 2013/14 there were under 15 000 starts in the construction industry. As a result, overall apprenticeship vacancies are still well short of the number of applicants……..
Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley have also contributed to the new issue of Forum
February 13, 2015
It’s Ed Miliband’s commitment to limiting primary school class sizes that’s received most attention, alongside his pledge to protect the education budget www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31431456.
Yet in his speech, delivered at his old school, Haverstock in Camden, Miliband also backed more personal, social and citizenship education, arguing that school should be more than just about passing exams. In doing so he also hinted that Labour would give 16 year olds the vote –an initiative which would surely lead to pressure for greater democracy and more say for young people, over the way schools are run.
But in attacking Michael Gove’s reforms as ‘narrow and backwards looking’, Miliband simply ground-out Neo-liberal Blairite rhetoric about the role of education (the ‘passport to success’) in providing the skills to enable young people to compete in the global market place and reiterated the now redundant post-war social democratic ideals about education’s role in challenging social inequalities and promoting more social mobility.
Ignoring the realities and implications of economic decline, downwards social mobility, increased poverty and labour market stagnation, this means that schools will continue to be pushed to ‘improve’ using data-driven targets, reinforced by Ofsted inspections, league tables and with teachers pay being tied to pupil performance. In rejecting ‘sausage machine’ schooling, whatever Tristram Hunt may think, Natalie Bennett and the Greens are far in advance of Labour.
February 2, 2015
Last week’s secondary school league tables began to bed down the first of Michael Gove’s examination changes for 14-19. The 2014 tables excluded performances in resits or in BTEC style vocational qualifications –and gave further prominence to English Baccalaureate subjects. As a result many schools found that though their overall performance in exams had improved, they’d slid down the league and more are ‘failing’. By 2016 the tables will be rank schools according to the ‘eight’. This will be performance in the EB plus three other subjects deemed sufficiently ‘rigorous’ (read ‘academic’ with end of course written examinations).
Much of the media attention given to this year’s tables however has been hogged by the top private schools –largely because they’ve continued to do the old ‘unregulated’ syllabuses for International GCSEs (IGCSE). No longer allowed in tables, many privates are now also failing http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-31023685
The tables have not been designed to regulate these schools however, but to impose a ‘grammar school’ curriculum across the state sector and more importantly to create new categories of failure and of course, the option of imposing further sanctions on those that don’t make the grade.
With the current Secretary of State Nicky Morgan now promising new ‘11 plus’ requirements if the Tories are re-elected, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31079515 we’re moving even further to an education system based on regimentation and social control rather than encouraging innovation and social aspiration. This is appropriate for a society where social mobility has gone in to reverse and high rates of youth unemployment have become the norm.
January 28, 2015