English GCSE examinations to be made tougher

GCSEs in four key subjects are to be made tougher.

Exams watchdog Ofqual wants changes to English literature, maths, history and geography GCSEs to ensure students cover the full breadth of the subjects.  Education Secretary Michael Gove has suggested some GCSEs can be passed with too narrow a grasp of the subject.

This change comes in the wake of the Daily Telegraph’s <a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/8940781/Exam-boards-how-examiners-tip-off-teachers-to-help-students-pass.html” title=”Daily Telegraph exam board” target=”_blank”>expose</a> of sharp practice in examination board’s promotion of their qualifications.

It is also set against the backdrop of exam grade <a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/aug/25/gcses-beginning-end-grade-inflation” title=”Exam grade inflation” target=”_blank”>inflation</a> over the past twenty years with a greater number of pupils achieving the highest grades.

February Education News

Surging birth rates put pressure on primary school places.

More than 450,000 additional primary school places will be needed in England by 2015 as schools face pressure from rising birth rates, new government figures have revealed.

The pressure on schools places, most keenly felt in the UK’s cities, could have significant impact on families intending to relocate using the English state school system.  More

University applications fall.

University applications from UK students for the first year of higher tuition fees are down by nearly 9%, according to figures from the admissions service (UCAS).

With fees rising to up to £9,000 per year, the impact has been biggest for England’s universities – down by 9.9%. In Scotland, where students do not pay tuition fees, there was a fall of 1.5%.

However, it seems that school leavers are relatively undeterred by the tuition fees, the impetus for the fall coming from mature students and overseas applications. More

Swedish private company to run first free school.

A new free school in Suffolk is to be operated by the UK arm of a private Swedish company that runs a number of free schools within Sweden.

Although individuals and companies are not allowed to make money from the running of schools under current government legislation, school “trusts” are allowed to outsource to private providers.

Some worry about the move opening the floodgates to “for-profit” investment in the English school system, though many also welcome the shake up to a school system that is often under fire. More

Vocational qualifications downgraded

The government has cut the value of more than 3,100 vocational qualifications, ending their recognition in England’s secondary school league tables.

They damn the “perverse incentives” for schools to offer exams, for example horse care, that boost their league table position.

The change comes after last year’s review of vocational qualifications for the government by Prof Alison Wolf, which suggested schools had been tempted to teach qualifications that attract the most points in school performance tables.  More

Potential new breakthrough in Autism research.

Initial research has indicated that it might be possible to diagnose autism in children earlier than previously thought. Babies as young as 12 months have been found to show symptoms of autism, much younger than the two to three year old mark when diagnosis traditionally begins.

Such a breakthrough could well lead to better treatment of autistic children or even prevent its development. More

For more on any of this please contact Nathaniel Price at Dean Associates.