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State education Is it up to standard?

(106 Posts)
Educationguru Sat 07-Dec-13 14:25:39

Has anyone got any opinions on this one?

HamletsSister Sat 07-Dec-13 20:17:19

My school is fantastic!

zooweemumma Sat 07-Dec-13 20:18:00

Straggle, that report doesn't claim a 'drop in standards' at private schools, it says more private schools are entering candidates for the igsce which is certainly not easier!

ipadquietly Sat 07-Dec-13 20:33:38

morethan I don't think any state schools are up to a decent standard tbh

That's a sweeping statement. Back to my original point that Ofsted have changed their criteria for meeting standards 5 times since September 2013 (i.e. in 3 months!) National 'decent standards' are forever changing - a school inspected in July 2013, October 2013 and November 2013 will be judged on different criteria! How can we compare them?

Nibs777 Sat 07-Dec-13 20:39:13

i think even the superselective state schools (the grammars everyone talks about here that ones that have 700 to 1500 children applying to them) are resting on their laurels and although many are very exam orientated they are just that ...I wonder how far beyond the curriculum they allow themselves or their pupils to go ...I mean with those kinds of figures of applicants they must be getting some of the smartest kids around so why aren't they getting anywhere close to 30% - 45% Oxbridge entrance like the top selective indies are? They start with the brightest types, and they are not as all round on sports, music, drama, etc as the indies are, and even with that exam focus, I am just curious why they don't achieve the same.

This is not meant to be a private vs state opinion, but it is based an observation on the facts...the best state as far as I can see gets 22% Oxbridge and the second and third best are under 20% and the best Indie is twice that or more and there are many more Indies that get 20% or more and that's not counting all the US univs that some of the leading Indies send their sixth formers to. I don't know if its the teaching, Oxbridge help or the aspirations that is the issue but it does bother me when thinking of state vs Indie (and I mean best state vs best indies).

Talkinpeace Sat 07-Dec-13 20:39:35

I don't think any state schools are up to a decent standard tbh
WOW that's quite a statement.
What is the standard that every non fee paying school in the country - from infant to 6th form college - fails to hit?

Talkinpeace Sat 07-Dec-13 20:41:24

might it possibly be because many state school kids can see that Oxbridge is not the be all and end all.

Nibs777 Sat 07-Dec-13 20:49:14

Nope it is not that - it is about level of teaching in my view, and you need to look at acceptance levels in sciences particularly - I have a DS who like many boys is science /maths orientated and we are deciding between selective Indy and superselective grammar so pertinent question, Dismissing it as Oxbridge is not be all and end all is a bit facile, isn't it?.

See here from the Sunday Times - Dec 2012

"AN ALARMING gap between the success of state and independent-school applicants for maths at Cambridge is revealed by internal figures that have fuelled the row over A-levels.

Maths is the subject with the third-highest number of state-school applicants to Cambridge but it has the lowest acceptance rate — just 18% were successful last year compared with 40% of those from independent schools. The gap is reflected at Oxford where 14.5% of state-school applicants were accepted for maths compared with 22.8% from independents.

State-school applicants are also far less successful in subjects that rely on maths, such as science, engineering and medicine. In computer science, only 24% are accepted, compared with half of those from private schools.

In humanities subjects, the difference is much smaller and in economics, history and modern and medieval languages, the acceptance rate is the same in both sectors.

The maths figures have prompted dons and academics at some other Russell Group universities to make private representations to the government for an overhaul of the A-level.

Academics at Cambridge and King’s College London are being funded by the Department for Education to develop more challenging materials for use in school sixth forms. Michael Gove, the education secretary, plans to use the results to strengthen the A-level and inform a new qualification to be devised in consultation with universities.

“Mathematics teaching at A-level tends to be very narrow and procedural and this is the case across the state and independent sectors. A handful of schools go well beyond the syllabus and they are the ones dominating the Oxbridge entries,” said Jeremy Hodgen, professor of mathematics education at King’s College London.

The reform is being opposed by teachers’ unions, which say gearing the A-level to high-flyers would deter other students.

Cambridge and Warwick require maths applicants to sit “sixth term examination papers” (Step). Bristol, Oxford, Bath and Imperial College London encourage students to take the papers.

Nick Edwards, who is studying economics at Cambridge, received extra maths classes at Tiffin school in Kingston, southwest London. “In A-level maths and further maths, the methods to solve each question are given to you on a plate. You go through the motions that your teacher will have drilled into you. In Step, you have to work out which methodology to use to solve the problem, then solve the problem itself. It’s a better test of pure logic, and there’s a creative element to it as well,” he said."

MoreThanChristmasCrackers Sat 07-Dec-13 20:52:27


A good standard, where you can be certain your dc will learn to read and write to a standard I as a parent expect.

Talkinpeace Sat 07-Dec-13 20:59:16

and do sums?

how about learning about getting on with people - an essential part of school education
and time management
and self discipline

and you want to be "certain" they can read and write.
Is it just the school's responsibility?

And what standard? L6, L8, GCSE grade C ?

we cannot decide whether schools are "up to standard" until we agree a common measuring point

which of course is where PISA fell down because the students in different countries sat different tests

WorrySighWorrySigh Sat 07-Dec-13 21:32:51

Something I would like to see is a floor target for all mainstream schools. Agree a standard of numeracy and literacy which every child must achieve by the age of say 16.

For each and every child who does not achieve that standard the head of the school must be able to show what steps were taken to remedy the situation. If the head cannot demonstrate reasonable effort then the head should be flogged through the streets offered a chair at the local job centre.

In schools you get what you measure. Once a percentage of failure has become accepted then that is all that the school will strive to achieve. Some schools dont need to strive hard to achieve their poor performances.

MoreThanChristmasCrackers Sat 07-Dec-13 21:34:05


I think reading and writing seem to be the main areas where I feel the standard is poor.
Of course I agree that Maths is important. I don't feel its only the schools responsibility, but mostly.
I disagree about a common measuring point being the only way you can gauge a decent standard.
I think that getting on with people, time management and self discipline can be taught and experienced through other avenues and that academic subjects should be taught to a better standard in school.

Talkinpeace Sat 07-Dec-13 21:44:18

worrysigh and morethan
do you really expect EVERY child, including those with SEN to reach a standard?
and should schools be penalised when kids are being kept out of school by parents?
bearing in mind that in a comp there will be kids who are L4 SATs by year 11 only with intensive help

I disagree about a common measuring point being the only way you can gauge a decent standard.
sorry, if there is no common measuring point then there is no standard - that is the definition of a standard hmm

HamletsSister Sat 07-Dec-13 22:23:47

The Oxbridge figures, cited above May well simply show that state schools are over presenting - putting forward candidates who are not strong enough, perhaps through lack of experience.

MoreThanChristmasCrackers Sat 07-Dec-13 22:29:34


I think children with SEN should be taught and expected to reach their potential the same as every other child. No I don't think schools should be penalised, moreover, I believe teachers should be given autonomy to teach how they seem fit. Then they should be accountable.
My dd is improving her standard of English in particular handwriting. She is not being assessed to a common measuring point, although several people have offered to do this.

Nibs777 Sat 07-Dec-13 23:56:12


I don't think that's the case, I think it's more about not going beyond the syllabus...the indies will tend towards the more extended IGCSEs and pre-Us etc. also

straggle Sun 08-Dec-13 00:36:14

happygardening: your school may be fine - obviously I don't know it so can't judge. I was responding to point that some independent schools are Ofsted inspected. As you point out, they may be poorer performers than ISI inspected. But Ofsted inspected independent schools tend to be less selective so it could also be argued they are a fairer comparison with state schools.

From PISA 2009:
'students in public schools in a similar socio-economic context as private schools tend to do equally well' and 'countries with a larger share of private schools do not perform better in PISA'.

Of PISA 2011:
'Competition alone is not a predictor for better outcomes'
'Our data doesn’t show much of a performance difference between public and charter and private schools once you account for social background' (but see fall in performance of Sweden and relative performance of US).
'The most important thing for parents is not the performance of the school, but what they call a safe school environment'

Tubemole1 Sun 08-Dec-13 03:19:17

Teach to test, no breadth of understanding.

So we take a topic being done at school, and run with it at home. Trips out, visits to museums, that kind of thing. Luckily we live in London blush and I appreciate not everyone lives five miles from a world renowned teaching museum.

Maths baffles me. They teach in a more convoluted and ridiculous way than I was. Even though dd gets the right answer, her books have "see me" in the margin because we do the working out different at home. I have complained, but the teacher says we have to do it her way. So we said, ok, we give up on maths, because your over complicating things. We are currently at an impasse.

I hate the fact that all religions are taught before atheism is. That gets my goat.

My teacher holds back the brightest to make sure the slow ones catch up. So my child gets bored easily. And she spends a lot of time drawing pictures because she finds the work too easy.

Other than all that, state ed is fine.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 08-Dec-13 08:39:59

talkinpeace no I dont expect that every child should reach the standard. What I do think is that for every child who wont reach the standard the head of the school should be able to state exactly what steps have been put in place to help that particular child.

This is about not leaving any child behind. If a head can hand on heart state that all reasonable steps have been taken and that the child has achieved his/her potential then the head has fulfilled his obligations.

The purpose of having a floor target is that the school is forced to acknowledge its responsibilities to all its students. SENs have been recognised and measures put in place. Absentee students have been followed up and the appropriate authorities engaged.

The school isnta llowed to write any student off.

summerends Sun 08-Dec-13 08:40:44

Nibs, I suspect that some of the difference in Oxbridge entry between the top state and privates is due the number of places gained by very bright, hardworking overseas students at those private schools, particularly the boarding ones. The private schools in Oxford and Cambridge will have a proportion of parents who are academics and therefore are more likely to know the system. That also helps (although also applies to the state sixth forms there).
However it may also reflect a system of teaching since some private schools enable teaching in a way that promotes independent thinking which is an advantage at an Oxbridge interview.
Oxbridge entry is n't necessarily a measure of educational success, just a certain type of academic thinking.

happygardening Sun 08-Dec-13 09:38:03

staggle I gave no doubt that my DS would have performed "equally well" in terms if academic achievement at out of our very high achieving local comp or the super selective grammar (if I could have been bothered to drive there) and I would have course got it free of charge. But what we want and are prepared to pay for is breadth and depth of education which is much harder to quantify and measure. Having not only very carefully examined our state school options but also experienced them first hand I know its not available in the state sector.

Nibs777 Sun 08-Dec-13 09:51:08


I agree some of that may be true but I don't believe that explains it away ...I do think some private schools (the best) teach beyond the curriculum in maths and that is what is looked for and that is what the professor at King's College London is saying also - he is referring to some handful of excellent schools that go way beyond the curriculum and those are the ones who are most successful at getting their children into maths at Oxbridge. I am comparing two schools (I won't say which) for my DS - one superselective grammar and one selective Indy -both for boys - the first does GCSE maths in the normal course, the second has a large cohort who can sit IGCSE a year early allowing the more able to focus on maths and further maths for A level and seems to have a lot more Olympiad type stuff going on. The second also gets a lot more into Cambridge for maths and sciences. I can only think that's because they are geared up for going beyond the test whereas the grammar is more oriented to teaching to the test. I would love to be wrong as the grammar will be free.

If you are looking at maths or natural sciences ...then yes, Cambridge is the best in the country by any measure (second in the world after MIT for Maths according to QS rankings though some would put Cambridge first) ....yes, it's not the be all and end all but I would have thought if you are the top of your game in maths or science, that is where you would be aiming for....hence I think it's a valid measure.

Nibs777 Sun 08-Dec-13 09:57:27

I wanted to add summerends I do also think the grammars are more prone to traditional methods of teaching rather than the more independent thinking that some of the best privates promote. Again, I think if they select the brightest out of 700 to 1500 applicants, they should be adding more value than they do in some subjects....and it sounds like those looking to overhaul the A level maths curriculum are saying it should be more stretching to allow the best to shine.

What interested me is the attitude of the teacher's unions which speaks for itself, if true:

"The reform is being opposed by teachers’ unions, which say gearing the A-level to high-flyers would deter other students."

summerends Sun 08-Dec-13 10:03:52

Nibs I certainly agree for the handful of private schools, which is what I was trying to say in part of my post. I think within the best private, the brightest have a much more enjoyable time being stretched by their lessons and probably reach a higher level of attainment . However in the state system, those equivalent children have to be more self directed, that may also be an advantage for success.

Nibs777 Sun 08-Dec-13 10:03:56

teachers' union even.

Agree with what happygardening said. Again, I have no political exe to grind...I am making this decision for my DS and would love to believe otherwise so I can be happy about saving £££ in fees if we opted for a free superselective grammar...but I am a bit put off by the idea that has entered my head that it will be likely a very traditional method of teaching which may not suit my DS who likes to delve and go beyond what is being taught to the test. It's not the A levels that are the be all and end all to me but promotion of the love of learning a subject and ability to think independently.

Nibs777 Sun 08-Dec-13 10:07:41

to be honest summerends I think any school that is superselective or even any good comp with top stream of students should easily be able to get the brightest students a clutch of A* at GCSE...I am looking for more than that though in education when looking at a secondary school.

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