Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Want a decent education? Don't do A-Levels.

The Royal Society in LondonImage via Wikipedia
The Royal Society, one of Britain's leading scientific institutions, has declared A-Levels "not fit for purpose".

This conclusion stems from the fact that relatively few pupils deciding on the usual 3 A-Level subjects will choose to do a science or maths. Across the UK in 2009, 17% of 16 to 18-year-olds took one or more science A-level, or equivalent qualification, the report says. This compares unfavourably with Scotland, where pupils generally take 5 Highers and often spread their choice between the sciences and the arts.

The report says this difference indicated problems with the structure of post-16 qualifications provision and demonstrates an "underlying cultural indifference" towards the sciences and maths.

Other findings included a need for more specialist maths and science teachers and a broadening of the diversity of A-Level subjects.

The Royal Society is calling for the rapid introduction of an English Baccalaureate at A-Level, which would require students to take a spread of subjects, including maths and a science subject. A similar qualification has already been announced for GCSE level by education secretary Michael Gove. The government thinks this new qualification will drive up the take-up of maths and science at both pre- and post-16 levels.

A review of the A-Level system has already been promised, although so far there are few details of the shake-up. Gove previously announced a desire to return to more emphasis on a final examination, moving away from a modular system.

The Chair of the Royal Society's Education Committee, Professor Dame Athene Donald, said in the report that, at a time of economic uncertainty, it was deeply worrying to find maths and science numbers so low, when these specialities have such potential to revitalise the country's financial outlook.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Gove acted unlawfully

Two weeks ago we reported that the education secretary, Michael Gove, was facing a legal challenge to his scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.

Yesterday, the High Court in London ruled in favour of the Education Authorities bringing the case to court. Michael Gove was told he must reconsider the decision to scrap the scheme because he had unlawfully failed to consult local councils. Seven hundred school building projects were shelved because of the decision.

In the House of Commons, Gove continued to defend his actions, telling MPs that his decision was clear and rational. He said that the scale of the deficit meant cuts were inevitable. He also pointed out that the judge had not ordered a reinstatement of the scheme, nor any compensation payment to the schools involved. The ruling gives schools the chance to "make representations".

For Labour, shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said that the ruling was damning. He demanded full details of conversations between Mr Gove and his civil servants and called on David Cameron to remove him from any future involvement in these matters.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that any of this will ever lead to the school rebuilds taking place.