Poor UK education standards

I can't see how classifying gaining 55% in a maths A level as an "A" pass does anything to uphold the value of the current system.

The leaked Edexcel documents, first reported in the Daily Telegraph, show A-level maths candidates needed 55% to get the A grade, while candidates with the OCR board needed 54%.

Edexcel's biology students needed 56% (167 marks out of 300) for an A, while OCR's candidates needed 59% (158 out of 270).

In physics, candidates needed 59% (176 out of 300) for a grade A with Edexcel, while with OCR, this was 76% (204 out of 270).

In English literature, candidates with the OCR board needed 89% for an A grade - significantly higher than those with Edexcel, who needed 69% (208 marks out of 300) to get A.
 
Personally, I can't see how the same exam having different thresholds depending on the examining body doesn't undermine the whole rotten edifice of privatised exam boards.
Hush, now. Where else do senior civil servants from the Dept of Ed and QCA go to die, after spending a life time of fceking over students and teachers at the bidding of such intellectual heavyweights like Clarke, Blunkett, Morris, Gove and Baker?
 

Yokel

LE
Personally, I can't see how the same exam having different thresholds depending on the examining body doesn't undermine the whole rotten edifice of privatised exam boards.
That is the problem - same subject, but different syllabuses, which naturally leads to different Gaussian curves. When I was nineteen I needed to redo a Maths exam for my BTEC National Diploma, so Dad helpfully went a got an A level textbook. Apart from minor annoyances (using i instead of j) it was good - but I was surprised to learn that different examining boards covered a core syllabus, but then there was variation, and some people might have an A level without having encountered certain things.

Then at Uni I learnt that not everyone with the same background as me had covered the same things, and a few years ago on here I was surprised another Engineering graduate had not been taught one of the things I was - that has uses outside technical fields.
 
I can't see how classifying gaining 55% in a maths A level as an "A" pass does anything to uphold the value of the current system.
Bearing in mind that the top grade is an A* so an A is equivalent to an old B (I forget when the A* grade was introduced) that seems fair enough. I would expect some slow grade inflation as the league tables and performance related pay mean that teaching is now focussed on making the little sods pass the exam. I didn't do my GCSEs or A levels that long ago and I'm damn sure I was never told what a specification was, never mind to check that I could do everything on it.

The main issues are that A levels were modular for a period of time and lots had coursework elements. In a modular system students sat a number of small exams throughout the 2 years. Coursework let them get a significant percentage of the final grade without being in exam conditions.

Both of those made the grades open to abuse - some students resat an early exam 3 times (resits year 1, exams year 2, resits year 2) and the coursework was allowed to be submitted as a draft and feedback given multiple times.

When the A levels were changed a few years ago back to a linear route and coursework was removed from a lot of subjects suddenly the pass rate would have dropped. I'm not certain but I believe the grades were pegged to the previous year to give the same proportion of As, Cs etc.

If you want a real laugh look up some of the grade boundaries from the 2018 GCSE exams (or 2017 for maths and English) after Gove's new harder curriculum was introduced and they were definitely pegged to the previous years results. I think from memory a grade 4 (equivalent to an old 'low C') required around 13% in maths on the higher paper.

I have had a look but can't see any grade boundaries for A level papers prior to 2010. It would be interesting to see what they used to be.
 

Yokel

LE
Bearing in mind that the top grade is an A* so an A is equivalent to an old B (I forget when the A* grade was introduced) that seems fair enough. I would expect some slow grade inflation as the league tables and performance related pay mean that teaching is now focussed on making the little sods pass the exam. I didn't do my GCSEs or A levels that long ago and I'm damn sure I was never told what a specification was, never mind to check that I could do everything on it.

The main issues are that A levels were modular for a period of time and lots had coursework elements. In a modular system students sat a number of small exams throughout the 2 years. Coursework let them get a significant percentage of the final grade without being in exam conditions.

Both of those made the grades open to abuse - some students resat an early exam 3 times (resits year 1, exams year 2, resits year 2) and the coursework was allowed to be submitted as a draft and feedback given multiple times.

When the A levels were changed a few years ago back to a linear route and coursework was removed from a lot of subjects suddenly the pass rate would have dropped. I'm not certain but I believe the grades were pegged to the previous year to give the same proportion of As, Cs etc.

If you want a real laugh look up some of the grade boundaries from the 2018 GCSE exams (or 2017 for maths and English) after Gove's new harder curriculum was introduced and they were definitely pegged to the previous years results. I think from memory a grade 4 (equivalent to an old 'low C') required around 13% in maths on the higher paper.

I have had a look but can't see any grade boundaries for A level papers prior to 2010. It would be interesting to see what they used to be.
I thought the Gove reforms, namely changing the letter grades from A-G (for GCSE) to numbers 1-?, were to provide the level of discrimination for the top grades? Possibly not so good for others who may need people like employers to decide are they fit for an apprenticeship or another type of job.

Too much influence of Oxbridge types in Government?
 
I thought the Gove reforms, namely changing the letter grades from A-G (for GCSE) to numbers 1-?, were to provide the level of discrimination for the top grades? Possibly not so good for others who may need people like employers to decide are they fit for an apprenticeship or another type of job.
The introduction of number grades had 3 aims as far as I can tell - putting in a new 'top' grade, giving a wider range of mid level passes and making it obvious that this was a 'new' GCSE.

A current 7 is equivalent to an old A, an 8 is an old A* and a 9 is effectively an A** which didn't exist before. No-one really seems clear on how grade 9s are awarded as they are allegedly given to the top 4% or so in a subject. However, some students are given target grades of a 9 which should be impossible if the grade depends on the rest of the cohort.

The old metric of success for a school was the A*-C pass rate with a C being a 'good' pass. D, E, F and G grades technically being passes but usually considered to have failed. The new grades 4 and 5 are both equivalent to an old C with a 4 being a 'low C' and a 5 being a 'high C'. In theory this allows colleges to discriminate between more and less able students for post 16 courses whereas before they were just a 'C grade' student.

Probably the most important factor is the fact that changing the grades from letters to numbers made it really clear to everyone that this was a real change rather than another set of tweaks. The change from application of content to memorising large volumes of material made the exams significantly harder.

Which put Gove in a hard place - he's introduced all of these changes to make GCSEs harder but that means lots of students will fail so he looks bad. The solution - peg results to the previous year so that the pass rate is maintained. This is also 'fair' as a student that would have got a C under the old spec will still get a 4 or 5. The only downside with that approach is that the grade boundaries were so low. What I now expect to happen is the grade boundaries will rise over time.

A cynical person might think the reason for putting a 9 as the top grade rather than 1 like O levels is so that in a few years time a grade 10 could be introduced. After all, an A*** would just be silly.
 
GCSE results day. I'm generally happy with what students got, the ones that worked hard got the top grades they deserved and the lazy ones did as well as I expected.

What is really pissing me off is I've just done a bit of data analysis of a class I taught. Not that bright, most fairly lazy and unmotivated but they have done OK in terms of raw grades given they were put in for the foundation exam so the highest they can get is a 5.

However, half a dozen of them had target grades of 6 or 7. I've just used the analysis software to see what happens if I give everyone with a target grade above 5 a grade 5. The result? The class progress is still considered to be 'unsatisfactory' (an ALPS 8 if that means anything).

@GrumpyWasTooCheerful, I remember a while ago you mentioned how you thought Progress 8 would become a weapon for the DfE to beat schools with. I, rather optimistically, thought it would be better than the A*-C pass rate. Looks like you were right after all :rolleyes:
 

Yokel

LE
Something to think about: Why does school have to be so boring?

Math teaches kids how to think.

If you don’t believe me, ask the teenage girl I recently sat next to on a plane. She was flipping through her Instagram feed, saying, “I don’t look like that girl,” and “I’ll never be that thin.” Seizing the opportunity to do some field research, I introduced myself as a psychologist who writes and speaks about teenagers.

Among other questions that I posed to her and her friend was this one: “Why study math?” She told me that “it teaches you how to think logically.” Jon Downs agrees. He joked that even though no kid goes off to school excited that “today I will become a better thinker,” making a logical argument comes in handy when convincing their parents they need a new cell phone.

When my son recently called in a panic, because his car stuck just as he was about to drive onto a ferry, I asked a series of questions using inductive reasoning: What are all the individual factors (the parts) that can lead a car not to start (the whole)? I immediately thought of the battery, but my wife figured out in the nick of time that the car was stuck in drive. Thank you, geometry, for the gift of inductive and deductive reasoning.

The truth is, you never know when you will need to use math. Well, actually, you do know: all the time. I was not the strongest math student, and I knew I’d never enter a math-heavy field, such as engineering or computer science. Boy, was I wrong to think that psychologists do not need math. Aside from having to learn statistics to complete my dissertation, in various jobs I held managing psychiatric programs, I had to create budgets and ensure they were adhered to.

Science teaches kids how the world works.

Debra Tavares reminds us that if necessity is the mother of invention, science is its backbone. Science involves problem-solving, creativity, and experimentation. Without science, there would be no innovation, not to mention no cell phones, computers, or microwave ovens.

Ever lost your keys? It’s a chronic problem for me. So if the necessity of being able to start my car or open my office door has given birth to a tracking device that can fit on my key chain, science made it happen.

Ms. Tavares feels that students who think poorly of science don’t understand that it touches every aspect of their lives. She told me, “Smart backpacks and smart clothing contain solar fibers so you can charge your devices without having to leave them behind. Even better skateboard wheels evolve to offer better performance using science.” She encourages her students to look deeper at the things they have, the things they want, and see how they can solve problems using science. You can encourage your kids to do the same.

English helps students understand themselves.

I wish I had Tom Ashburn as a teacher when I was in the 8th grade. English would have been a lot more interesting. Tom explains that when he teaches English, he asks kids, “What does it mean to be human in this book?” or “What is it like to have a conflict in your life like the one the character is struggling with?”

Why read Shakespeare? Themes like jealousy and betrayal (Othello), ambivalence and inability to take action (Hamlet), deception and manipulation (Macbeth), and forbidden love and passion (Romeo & Juliet) are relevant to most teens.

Discussing the relevance that a book your son or daughter is reading has to their lives might yield a more productive conversation than “What did you learn in school today?” By the way, if you want your kid to read more, let them watch you read. Modeling is the best way to encourage children to do anything (except clean up their rooms—nothing works for that).

As for writing papers, Jon Downs says that kids may not see the relevance of clearly communicating the injustices described in To Kill a Mockingbird, but someday they will surely want to express their feelings to someone they love eloquently.

History teaches kids how to make the world a better place.

It is a bit clichéd, but we should learn a lesson or two from history. As divided as our nation’s politic has become, it is important for students to understand concepts like populism, authoritarianism, and socialism, and see how each of these movements fared throughout history.

No matter what your political orientation, it is dangerous to reduce complex issues such as the Second Amendment to black and white bullet points. Knee-jerk reactions create a lot of trouble. There is so much to be learned when we appreciate the nuances, historical context, and interpretations over time of any issues the world faces today.

Education makes us all better people.

Ultimately it’s vital for parents to stress the importance of learning. As Jon Downs observed, it takes a lifetime to master the skills students are introduced to in school, and learning should be a lifelong endeavor.

I tell my middle school and teenage patients that I want to make sure the person in the voting booth next to me has at least a fundamental understanding of how the world works, so they can be a more informed voter. Across every subject, education helps us to become better decision-makers and problem solvers.


Is having political leaders who qualified in things like The Classics such a good thing? I had a superior who had taken a degree in 'Outdoor Leisure Studies' - I am not sure what it taught him apart from being an ********!
 

Yokel

LE
Just by chance, whilst doing some tidying over the weekend my folks found a 'Personal Monitor' that had been sent home from the school when I was fifteen - a listing of subjects with assessments of A to D for effort and 1 to 4 for achievement. I just think 'hmmm'. How did I get a B2 grading (acceptable effort and achievement) for Geography but only an E at GCSE the following year? My own assessment had been B2 as well. Same (ish) with German.

I got C3 (just about acceptable effort and achievement) for Mathematics - a bit unfair I was frustrated by the Kent Mathematics Project, working throughout cards that were often missing. I got a D the following year, and need to do retakes.

I got B2 and B1/2 for Science and Further Science. Oddly I got given A3 for Drama. The C3 for PE does not seem to bad, but no "This year, Yokel has been concentrating on self preservation.as we cannot be bothered to do anything about the small group of miscreants who like to beat other kids up, slash things (and kids) with knives, threaten them with syringes, burn them with cigerettes, spit at them on the bus/in class/at the lunch table....etc"?

Happiest days of your life? Bollocks!
 

windswept398

Old-Salt
My mucker in the army couldn't tell you who was PM during the outbreak of WW2. That was 2005. The education system has been slipping for a while now.
 
Just by chance, whilst doing some tidying over the weekend my folks found a 'Personal Monitor' that had been sent home from the school when I was fifteen - a listing of subjects with assessments of A to D for effort and 1 to 4 for achievement. I just think 'hmmm'. How did I get a B2 grading (acceptable effort and achievement) for Geography but only an E at GCSE the following year? My own assessment had been B2 as well. Same (ish) with German.

I got C3 (just about acceptable effort and achievement) for Mathematics - a bit unfair I was frustrated by the Kent Mathematics Project, working throughout cards that were often missing. I got a D the following year, and need to do retakes.

I got B2 and B1/2 for Science and Further Science. Oddly I got given A3 for Drama. The C3 for PE does not seem to bad, but no "This year, Yokel has been concentrating on self preservation.as we cannot be bothered to do anything about the small group of miscreants who like to beat other kids up, slash things (and kids) with knives, threaten them with syringes, burn them with cigerettes, spit at them on the bus/in class/at the lunch table....etc"?

Happiest days of your life? Bollocks!

GCSEs?


You fukcing toddler.
 
My mucker in the army couldn't tell you who was PM during the outbreak of WW2. That was 2005. The education system has been slipping for a while now.
Weirdly, that very same question was asked on a quiz show at tea time today, the contestant answered, "Harold Wilson." Your mucker is in good company it seems.
 

Yokel

LE
The thick will will always be amongst us.

I think one of the improvements since I was at school in the early nineties is discipline. When I was at school to hardcore offenders were allowed to act with impunity. Get punched for no reason other than being there? Spat at at the lunch table? Threatened with needle and syringe? School not interested, because "we need him for the Football team".

Health and Safety? Nah, nobody has ever been hurt by an electric shock, how dare you refuse to use something as you can see bare conductors. Why not go cross country running in the middle of winter withing a marked course? What could go wrong? No need to worry about the adults who like to admire kids in shorts. No need to worry about someone finding you lost and.....

As for school work, why let people concentrate their efforts on the subjects that are key to their future study and work. Also why concentrate on the majority, when you can concentrate on favourites, or ignore the majority in favour of the exceptionally bright (multiple 'A's) and the lower performers.

Being told how wonderful it was, despite reality., meant there was nowhere to go, nobody to tell.
 
I just want to know when the standard was optimal.
It seems there is always the cry of the next generation being worse than the previous/current one and a constant decline in standards. What little history I did at school didn’t suggest the Middle Ages/ancient world were a particular nadir.
 

It'll be interesting to see the progress of this lad through to his undoubted eventual PhD or whatever he chooses to be his academic peak. I hope that progress is studied in light of his environment, both social and academic; Lessons can Be Learned.
 
A recent University Challenge match (Oxford/Cambridge, and described by Paxman as “clever clogs vs smarty pants”) produced these gems from eight of Britain’s brightest:

(1) The Tyne is a tributary of the Humber

(2) Uganda is on the west coast of Africa

and (best of all)

(3) Which ancient British leader was pardoned by the Emperor Claudius in c. 51AD, after resisting the Roman invasion?
Answer: Robert the Bruce.

They were also wholly unable to identify Schubert’s Ave Maria.

I used to wonder how the likes of Diane Abbott manage to get an Oxbridge degree, no matter how frivolous or pc its subject. I wonder no longer, and turn resignedly to drink.
Oxford Brookes, no doubt.
 

New Posts

Latest Threads

Top