Friday, July 24, 2009

SATs scores spun, science sidelined.

The BBC reports of the last two days highlight in stark terms what a bunch of interfering busybodies government ministers are. If proof were wanted to bear out everything the Policy Exchange report of a few months ago stated, it’s all here.
As the BBC news channel reported yesterday morning, far from being blameless for last year's SATs debacle, the Commons schools select committee said the DCSF had 'involved itself too much in the detail of the testing'. It is also significant that Barry Sheerman, the chair of the committee, felt that he had to say: "We are not saying Ed Balls and Jim Knight were manipulating everything...they weren't doing that, but at the same time their fingerprints are on part of this." Read into that what you may! Poor old Barry! The last time he stepped out of line and called for a ballot on the leadership, they had him up in front of his constituency committee the following morning for a dressing down.
It's the same old story with everything they lay their hands on: diktats from the centre, control freakery gone mad. The sort of thing that stifles innovation and ignores anything government ministers decide to turn its face against. This approach doesn't sit well with the second report from the BBC later in the day telling us that the government is also 'keeping scientists at "arm’s length"' and, it says, 'treating science as "a peripheral concern."'
We know very well what the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills committee group of MPs mean when they tell us that 'knowledge from experts is not being properly used to make informed policy decisions'. The fact that Gordon Brown and Ed Balls should personally decide that Reading Recovery should be rolled out in schools is the kind of madness that flies in the face of properly conducted scientific evidence into what works in terms of teaching children to read and spell.
OK, I’m spinning it! But, if the government had genuinely allowed schools to choose whatever phonics programmes they wanted and without the interference of an army of local authority advisors on whom 85% of the annual budget for the National Strategies has been spent, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now in.
And, just to remind you exactly what that mess is: from the Policy Exchange document (p.26)
'Primary performance statistics:
1) Performance in English, maths and science has barely improved in the last two years, if at all
2) Children’s reading has scarcely improved since 2000
3) The performance of high achieving pupils is starting to fall by as much as 5% a year
4) Over 40% of the boys and almost 30% of the girls (around 200,000 children in total) who left primary school in 2008 cannot read and write properly
5) Only 56% of the boys and 66% of the girls who left primary school in 2008 can read, write and count to the minimum standard
6) Since the National Strategies began in 1998, over 1.6 million children have left primary school without achieving basic literacy, over 1.8 million have left without mastering basic numeracy and over a million have left not understanding basic science.'

5 comments:

  1. I never realised that 85% of the National Strategies budget was spent on LA advisory staff. It makes me wonder how much more literate and numerate children would have become if, instead, that amount (whatever it was) had been given to schools to buy in training and materials they knew would be effective. I think most schools would have researched more carefully than the government appear to have done to make sure they were spending their money wisely. Another point, how much more committed are schools to something they have had some say in choosing?

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  2. I think your last point is one that Policy Exchange would endorse most strongly, Gini. Their view is that when schools are free to choose the programmes they put in place, they are much more committed to them.
    Of course, for all sorts of reasons, there will be schools that will make the wrong choices but I'd go with the bottom-up, free market approach as opposed to the top-down, bureaucratic governmental approach.
    Look out tomorrow for my posting on Chris Woodhead's opinions on this issue.

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  3. 85% . . . !! I didn't realise that either. What a total waste of tax payers money. There is also the problem at the moment in that when schools do choose an approach they have the Advisers going in attempting to get them to water it down.
    Lizzy

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  4. By the way, now the framework is disappearing these Advisers are attempting to find other ways of justifying their existence.
    Lizzy

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  5. Lizzy, You said that 'now the framework is disappearing these Advisers are attempting to find other ways of justifying their existence'.
    I know and it's a frightening thought, isn't it? What kinds of meddling are they going to get up to now, I wonder?
    John

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