Homework lessons from PISA: looking past the headlines

John Jerrim

When the PISA results are released, almost everyone is fixated upon the average scores children have achieved in reading, science and mathematics, and our latest position in the “international rankings”. However, a lot of other information is captured within this study, some of which is actually a lot more interesting than the headline results themselves. My report for the Sutton Trust today looks at one such issue – how much time do 15-year-olds spend in additional learning activities outside of their core timetabled hours? This captures not only the use of private tutors, but also access to afterschool clubs. Here, I briefly overview four of the key messages Read more ›

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Posted in International comparisons, Social sciences and social policy

The experts who put storytelling, language and better paid teachers at the heart of early education

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Thinking ahead.

Natalia Kucirkova 

There are a lot of things to remember at the start of a new school term. Uniforms, sports kit, stationery equipment, activity clubs … Often forgotten are the names of the people behind the learning which actually goes on once pupils arrive in the classroom. Not the teachers who do the teaching – but the academics who worked out how children learn.

Jerome Bruner, Catherine Snow and Kathy Sylva are not familiar names you might recognise from TV panel shows. But their original ideas have become widespread and deeply rooted in early education systems worldwide. My own collaboration with Sylva and Snow taught me the importance of patient, humble and systematic research.

Bruner, who died last year at the age of 100, was a professor at Harvard and then Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education

Closing the gap: we need the best teachers in the most deprived schools

Becky Francis. 

Our society is stuck in a rut on social mobility – or rather, immobility. For decades, governments of every persuasion have sought to improve social mobility, to narrow the gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. But that gap – in education, income, housing, health – continues to yawn. It is time to think more radically.

Recent months have seen a steady flow of research evidence documenting this problem. Two reports published this summer are good examples. Closing the Gap: Trends in Educational Attainment and from the Education Policy Institute, reveals that the most disadvantaged pupils in England are now on average more than two full years of learning behind non-disadvantaged pupils by the end of secondary school. Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Education policy

Only grade 5 and above should be considered a pass when GCSE maths and English results are released tomorrow

 John Jerrim.

Tomorrow is the release of GCSE results, with this year having the added excitement of changes to how grades are being reported for certain subjects. Rather than the long-standing use of alphabetic grades (ranging from A* to U), English language and maths will be scored on a numeric (9 to 1) scale. Consequently, no-one really quite knows what to expect!

Confusion has not been helped by the Department for Education defining both grade 4 and grade 5 as the “pass” mark, and then using these for different purposes. For instance, whereas schools will require their pupils to achieve grade 5 to be included in their EBACC accountability figures, children themselves will be awarded the EBACC if they reach at least grade 4. Likewise, the leading Russell Group universities are now using different criteria; whereas UCL will require applicants to certain courses to have achieved at least grade 5 in English and maths, other (such as Manchester) are only asking for grade 4 . 

Confused? You should be! It doesn’t really make much sense, does it? But it does Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, International comparisons, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

GCSE and A-level results: it’s not just the grades that matter

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Why GCSE and A Level subject choices matter. shutterstock

Jake Anders, UCL and Catherine Dilnot, Oxford Brookes University. 

A-level results will soon be out, with more than 300,000 students eagerly waiting to find out if they’ve made the grade. Then come GCSE results, with even more students keen to find out how they’ve done.

Whether students are heading to university, into an apprenticeship or straight into employment, chances are they will all be wishing and hoping and dreaming and praying of a set of grades that will reflect their level of academic accomplishment.

For would-be university applicants, there is often a requirement that students take a particular set of subjects at A-level – and achieve a certain grade – to be in with a chance of getting a place on a degree course. To study medicine, for example it’s often required that Read more ›

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Posted in Further higher and lifelong education, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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