Education News – January 2011

Welcome to Dean Associates’ January 2011 education update, bringing you the key stories in the UK’s education market.

What is the English “Bac”?

The Government has introduced a new measurement for English secondary schools – what has been described as the English “Bac” (short for Baccalaureate).

The measurement shows the percentage of pupils who achieve GCSE A*-C grades in English, Maths, a Science, a Language and either History or Geography. As such, it an indicator of traditional academic achievement.

The national average achieving the English “Bac” in 2010 was just under 16%.

One of the reasons for the introduction is that many schools have “inflated” their GCSE results by pushing students towards less academically rigorous subjects. For example, one secondary school in west London achieves 46% A-C grades but only 1% obtaining the “Bac”.

Many schools are angry that this measurement has been rushed in, although since it is simply a different way to interpret existing results, the protests seem a little hollow. However, the “Bac” does present a challenge to those schools who have done a good job in engaging students who are traditionally academic and could be seen as undermining their work.

Timings of A Levels could change

The Government is considering changing the timing of A Levels so that students can apply to university with their actual grades, rather than with their predicted grades.

Research shows that students from poorer backgrounds would benefit from this move, as they tend to achieve better actual than predicted results. At the moment, they face a crunch period during the “Clearing” process to upgrade their university choices.

Since A-Levels, and their timing, have been hard-wired into the system for over a generation, any changes would take substantial planning and upheaval. There does seem to be a great deal of sense and evidence to show that this would be worthwhile.

Scottish universities seen as a “cheap” option

The Scottish government is concerned at the rise in overseas applicants for undergraduate courses from the EU.

Scottish universities offer free tuition to Scottish residents and, because of EU law, have to offer this to EU applicants as well.

Applicants from England still have to pay tuition fees, though at half the cost of English universities.

The latest admissions figures show the number of students from other EU countries taking up places at Scottish universities has nearly doubled in a decade to almost 16,000 last year, at a cost of nearly £75m.

Why private schools score badly in GCSE league tables.

Many independent schools are scoring below some of the worst-performing English state schools in GCSE league tables.

The reason for this is that many independent schools have switched to the IGCSE (the International GCSE). The government does not count the IGCSE in its league tables, hence the independent schools often appear to have dreadful results.

English curriculum review

Michael Gove, the education minister, has stated, “We have sunk in international league tables and the National Curriculum is substandard.”

A review of the National Curriculum is to take place – with English, Maths, Science and PE compulsory parts of teaching 5 to 16 year olds. A foreign language may also be introduced. Teaching of the new curriculum will begin in September 2013.

We will keep you updated on all the inevitable arguments and compromises!