The election battleground: heat and light – and the basics

Chris Husbands

The party conference season is over and it is election-preparation time: before the end of the school year, voters will have gone to the polls and a new government will be in office. There are sharp choices to be made for all major parties: whether to offer consolidation, recognising the radical changes to curriculum, assessment and school structures introduced since the Academies Act of 2010, or to strike boldly out for more change. For the Conservatives, celebrating at their conference that more children now attend good and outstanding schools, there must be a temptation to consolidate, to build bridges with teachers and make Michael Gove’s legacy work, rather than unleashing yet more potentially disruptive change. For the Liberal Democrats, claiming credit for the pupil premium which offers schools additional resources for poorer pupils, the aim is both to ensure that they get the electoral credit for an imaginative approach to school funding and to identify a further totemic policy to carry forward. Perhaps choices are most acute for Labour: Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Schools

You say you want a cultural revolution? Policy borrowing from the East

Yun You

When I first arrived in England in 2010, I was shocked by the then Education Secretary Michael Gove’s statement: “I’d like us to implement a cultural revolution just like the one they’ve had in China.” As a Chinese person, the shock was of course from his ‘admiration’ for the ‘cultural revolution’, but also from an English politician’s enthusiasm for learning from East Asian education systems.

What I learnt from my history class and what I heard from Chinese media were all about ‘learning from the West’. Now, there seems to have emerged a reverse tide in England, promoted by a series of international surveys, especially PISA, in which East Asian countries and regions consistently ranked top, much ahead of England. Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, International comparisons, Schools

East Asia top performers: what PISA really teaches us

John Jerrim

It is no secret that East Asian children excel at school. For instance, 78 percent of ethnic Chinese children obtain at least 5 A*-C GCSE grades, compared to a national average of just 60 percent. Yet, despite some very interesting qualitative work by Becky Francis, we still know very little about why this is the case.

I explore this issue in my new paper using PISA 2012 data from Australia. Just like their counterparts in the UK, Australian-born children of East Asian heritage do very well in school – particularly when it comes to maths. In fact, I show that they score an average of 605 points on the PISA 2012 maths test. This puts them more than two years ahead of the average child living in either England or Australia. They even outperform the average child in perennial top PISA performers like Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, International comparisons, Schools

EPPSE: striking a blow for evidence-informed policy and practice

Diane Hofkins 

In the early 1990s, it was still possible for Ministers to argue that early-childhood education was a luxury the taxpayer couldn’t afford. Although Britain’s best nurseries were renowned and studied round the world, there was little empirical evidence demonstrating their concrete, ongoing benefits for children. For most families, meanwhile, a mixed bag of pre-school provision was on offer via a classic postcode lottery.

By 1997, with a General Election looming, the Conservative Government had begun a substantial programme of nursery investment and regulation. The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education project was commissioned to find out what types of provision and early experiences were most effective. Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Research matters

Phonics test: changing pedagogy through assessment

Alice Bradbury

If you want to change what teachers teach, should you change the curriculum, or change the assessment? For the last three years, all six-year-olds in England have had to take a Phonics Screening Check test, which they can either pass or fail. The introduction of this test by the coalition government was controversial, as there is much debate over the use of phonics in the teaching of reading. This year’s results have just been heralded as a victory for phonics as a greater proportion of children passed. However, if we look back at the evolution of this policy, as I have done in a paper presented last week at BERA and now published in the Oxford Review of Education, we can see that the purpose of the Phonics Screening Check has always been surrounded by confusion.

Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the Institute of Education, University of London.

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