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What are peoples thoughts on the English Baccalaureate ??

(205 Posts)
TheOriginalNutcracker Wed 21-Nov-12 19:24:05

I know what I think, but i'm wondering if i'm alone in my thoughts.

So, any opinions ?

TeddyBare Sun 25-Nov-12 21:48:11

Chloe - while I can imagine that that situation was really very frustrating, I don't think the sole aim of the maths curriculum should be to make consumers shopping experience faster. If the girl was really struggling with basic maths then I think teaching her how to competently use a calculator would be more valuable for her and her employer. Teaching her Roman numerals or maths by rote (which gets forgotten much more quickly than actual understanding of concepts) probably wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

It is reasonable to assume that the demand for technological development is going to grow and that is utterly dependant upon skilled computer programmers, scientists and designers. The maths skills they need and are often lacking are the skills to "translate" between the real world and mathematical language. There is no point being able to do complex calculations by hand when what you need to do is work out what to calculate in order to be able to estimate when the avalanche will happen. Schools don't teach that skill and don't examine it so people are having to learn this by intuition and on the job. Computers and calculators are already faster and more accurate at calculating than human are and there is no reason to believe that they're going to get slower. A more efficient use of human-mathematical skill is to focus it on the things which computers are not good at, such as real world questions, and teach people how to use the computers properly. Rote learning might have been valuable in 1912 but it just isn't enough any more.

As for the anti-teacher language - what do you think that achieves? The problems of insufficient budget, poor curriculum, children who are being let down by their parents or the care system and over examination and assessment can't be resolved by bullying teachers. All that achieves is pushing good teachers out of the system into private schools or other careers. The job needs to be appealing to attract and keep the best applicants and at the moment you'd have to be mad to consider teaching.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Nov-12 21:59:14

Schools don't teach that skill

We do teach kids how to use calculators. We're not still on log and trig tables!

However the insistence on mental arithmetic and written methods does lead to kids thinking that calculators are 'cheating'. Even if they are faced with a tricky percentage question on a calculator paper, you can guarantee that half of them will attempt to do a written calculation. They're so used to being told to put their calculators away that when they are allowed to use them, they forget to.

EvilTwins Sun 25-Nov-12 22:23:46

The man thinks it is possible for all schools to be above average, which just proves that he's a buffoon, what with it not being mathematically possible and all that.

TeddyBare Sun 25-Nov-12 23:23:14

noblegiraffe - I'm not saying that calculators aren't used. I know that is taught in schools. What is lacking is the practice at working out which question you want answered and extracting the relevant data from the real world then formulating it into something you can put in a calculator. That's the skill which requires human thought rather than computers and it's also a skill which seems to be missing from the new syllabus. You can't rote learn concepts.

Improving the standards requires some analysis of what "better" means and rearranging the curriculum to make it teach and test that, rather than blindly assuming that the target which was right for the last hundred years is still the right one and that we're just failing to meet it.

noblegiraffe Sun 25-Nov-12 23:49:47

When you say new syllabus do you mean the current syllabus or the as yet undefined EBC syllabus for 2015?

Also, what sort of question did you have in mind? If you're looking for 'here's a bunch of data on holiday prices, which is the cheapest for a family of 4 going for 2 weeks in August?' then there is a bit of that functional maths in there. If you want 'are left handers better at estimating lengths than right handers' then that sort of thing is covered in Statistics GCSE (a bit). But if you think that maths GCSE should mainly be about formulating problems so that they can be entered into a calculator then we might have a fundamental disagreement about what maths is.

It's a huge issue that people have different expectations about what maths GCSE should cover. Employers want C grade students to be numerate, yet it is not a qualification in numeracy. Sixth form teacher want students to be proficient in algebra, but there's not enough of that either. And you want applied computational maths for a technology savvy generation.

Clearly we need more than one qualification. Not ruled out, I think, in the EBC, but also not clear as to what that will cover. And I doubt Gove is a fan of calculators because I don't think they had them when he was at school.

ravenAK Mon 26-Nov-12 00:32:55

A slide rule for every child, with a personal message from His Goveness engraved thereon? Couldn't be dafter than the bibles.

wordfactory Mon 26-Nov-12 07:54:33

My understanding is that schools will not be forced to offer it to every child. Certainly there are many pupils for whom it is not appropriate. But I do think there should be transparent data as to how many pupils attain it. Schools that are not ensuring their most able pupils are covering thsed subjects need to be asking themselves why.

EduCrazy Mon 26-Nov-12 10:31:36

Noblegiraffe/EvilTwins - 3 years ago is hardly old. Tell me, what SUBSTANTIAL changes have been brought about since then to bring about change, because from what I can see, you teachers wasn't even aware that the problem existed? I look forward to you sending me a link with recent procedures and information that are now in place with regards to the marking of coursework, especially if it constitutes part of the overall mark of an exam. In any case, if students are being unreasonably marked down even for their day to day work, let alone their coursework towards an exam, while others are having their marks inflated, it is clearly an area that needs radical intervention, as those being unfairly marked will eventually disengage from studies altogether as a result of feeling undervalued.

ravenAK - I am so proud of you. While others want to brush the situation under the carpet, you say, hold on a minute, perhaps there is a problem here. Well done you. It's teachers like you, who admit that it's not impossible for bias to exist in any format, who'd be more likely to ensure racism and the like didn't rear its ugly head in your classroom.

It was reported (although not by any means am I implying the same with schools at this stage) that there was institutionalised racism within our police force, for example. Procedures were put in place to prevent this from happening in the future. It would be impossible to eradicate racist views within individual police officers, likewise teachers, but at least steps have been put in to minimise their impact. I would like to know therefore, what procedures were put in place in the last three years to prevent this from happening. Procedures that were so effective, the teachers on here, such as Noblegiraffe and EviltTwins, worringly, didn't even know the problem ever existed.

noblegiraffe Mon 26-Nov-12 10:41:14

I think I suggested way upthread that the way to solve bias in coursework marking, racist or otherwise was to have it marked externally by exam boards, as maths coursework used to be.

As maths doesn't have coursework anymore, I'm not sure what current procedures are in place, but it would be a huge failing on the part of the exam boards if they haven't addressed this.

noblegiraffe Mon 26-Nov-12 10:43:24

In fact, I am astonished that the Ofqual report tried to blame teachers for over marking. It is the exam boards' responsibility to moderate marking and ensure that the mark scheme is interpreted fairly, and to train teachers in correct marking.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 26-Nov-12 12:22:37

As I stated quite clearly (and you would know yourself if you researched)
- models and partial retakes have been abolished
- coursework has been abolished
- almost all subjects are now examined at the end of the 2 years
(like it was in O level days, the exceptions being Art and design courses)
- boundary levels are no longer being set to create grade inflation each year
- the number of qualifications accepted for entry to higher education has been massively narrowed.

how much more substantial do you want?

chloe74 Mon 26-Nov-12 12:45:05

Teachers over marked and Ofqual moderated. In essence the system worked, in no small part to having a more competent Secretary of State in charge. Obviously it would be better in future that teachers didn't raise pupils expectations and there wouldn't be such appointment when some children fail the exam.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 26-Nov-12 12:48:11

Teachers over marked
Link please to your evidence for that assertion.

So, do you agree that the substantial change is already in place?
No need for a mad leap into the dark?
Especially once Gove gets reshuffled out of Education .......

noblegiraffe Mon 26-Nov-12 12:55:59

I think you misunderstood the process, Chloe. Teachers over marked, the exam boards moderated and said nothing about the apparent over marking although it should have been obvious from moderation that it was a problem. So teachers had no feedback from the exam boards that they were over marking and no reason to think their marking was incorrect.

It was only because of the exam board grade boundary balls up that Ofqual stepped in at all and it suddenly came to light that teachers were marking too generously. Which seems to have seen as a way to try to pin the whole fiasco on teachers when, the failure of the exam boards there is a separate issue to the grade boundary one, which was also a failure on the part of the exam boards.

chloe74 Mon 26-Nov-12 12:58:32

The recent investigation released by Ofqual, widely reported on, uncovered the issues of over marking.

I agree that Gove is putting in place the substantial reform we need. He has been in position for 6 years and I would expect him to see the reforms through until at least 2015/2016. Once the reforms are through I wouldn't be to upset if he had a different position and the dept was looked after by a 'safe' pair of hands, to keep the Unions happy.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 26-Nov-12 13:13:29

He has been in position for 6 years
sorry? was he a Labour minister?
I believe you mean two years and six months.
And the sooner he is reshuffled the better.

And noble is correct about how the 'overmarking' happened.

chloe74 Mon 26-Nov-12 13:58:31

He was also shadowing the Labour minister in this area from 2006. Hence he has had plenty of time to become an expert and form opinions before starting to implement them.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 26-Nov-12 14:12:21

he has had plenty of time to become an expert and form opinions
pontificating from the opposition benches is not the same as doing the job
and yes, he's formed lots of opinions but NOBODY rates him as an expert except himself, his wife, Cameroon and you ....

You set far too much store in the ability of politicians.
Roll on that reshuffle.

radicalsubstitution Mon 26-Nov-12 16:56:45

Teachers over marked and Ofqual moderated

I have read this too. But the report went on to say that teachers were not trying to 'cheat' the system, but rather were generous with their application of marking criteria in order to 'fit' the coursework within the students target grades.

Chloe, time and time again you make very sweeping generalisations about teachers and their attitude towards the profession and their responsibilities. This is why teachers get more than a little annoyed and start resorting to swearing and insults (usually on a Friday night).

I don't think there are any teachers who think the education system, every school and every teacher is perfect or even good in every case.

Teachers are under an immense amount of pressure to ensure students reach target grades. The rights and wrongs of this can be argued forever and a day but, while ever teachers are responsible for assessing their students and this assessment forms part of the teacher's performance review, they will err on the side of generosity. I would like to see any profession under the sun where this wouldn't be the case.

The current government came into power with sweeping statements about removing targets from the public sector and so far have entirely failed to do so in education. If anything, the situation has become considerably worse - particularly under the latest Ofsted framework where progress against targets is everything.

Before you start on me, I fully appreciate that private sector employees face exactly the same sort of pressures. However, I would argue that the results are the same - impose a rigid numerical target on a member of staff and they will ensure they meet it to the detriment of other aspects of their work.

Having worked extensively in the private sector, I know this is the case.

noblegiraffe Mon 26-Nov-12 21:22:32

Oh good grief, Gove isn't an education expert, he's a politician. It's not his job to be an expert, it's his job to win votes.

He's a very good politician too. I've observed him deal with journalists and colleagues and he is excellent at schmoozing.

Bramshott Tue 27-Nov-12 11:06:20

EBACC is a solution to a league table problem, not an education problem. Get rid of league tables and the 'problem' that the EBACC solves also vanishes.

noblegiraffe Tue 27-Nov-12 11:48:50

Interestingly, since Labour changed it so that languages were no longer compulsory at KS4, my school has always timetabled languages against vocational options. A child at KS4 can either opt for a GCSE course in French or German, or something like a BTEC in Health and Social Care. Blimey, the amount of parental complaints we've had that academic children are being forced to select languages against their will.

People always seem to blame schools for kids not taking languages and being denied an Ebac of academic subjects but it really isn't just down to the schools.

hellsbells99 Tue 27-Nov-12 11:52:25

I think there are a few misunderstandings about the current GCSEs. I have a DD1 in year 11 and DD2 in year 10 so we are in the middle of lots of changes! For example: both girls are taking triple science (AQA) - DD1 has completed 1 set of exams so far (1 for chemistry, 1 for Biology, 1 for Physics) with 2 sets still to go (Jan 2013 & June 2013). These exams were 'new specification' and the papers very different from previous years - 6 mark questions etc. This made revision harder as there were no past papers. Also particulalry in Biology, it didn't seem to test pure knowledge but was more about whether the students could interpret graphs etc. DD2 will follow the same 'new spec' but have to sit all her exams at the end of year 11 (so 9 papers in science). Both DDs will still do controlled assessments ('course work') in all their subjects - this has not changed!
DD1 talk maths GCSE (Edexcel) early at the end of year 10 - this again was a new spec and contained lots of 'functional' type questions. She did not do as well as expected as the past papers (which she scored highly on) were very different - the wording, questions etc.
DD2 has been told there are changes to Geography plus various other changes.
The changes are constant and I do feel very sorry for the teachers trying to keep up with them.
I think controlled assessments will stay until the new Ebacc exams things!

hellsbells99 Tue 27-Nov-12 11:55:07

'particulalry' ..... particularly


cricketballs Tue 27-Nov-12 18:42:30

The issue I have and why I defend BTEC so adamantly is that not all students or subjects are being considered on parallel --.

The lower ability students are never going to access the type of assessment of these new qualifications nor the content.

Those students whom learn best through a vocational manner i.e. applying theory to practical so they can see the relevance of what they are learning.

Those students who work better on continual assessment through coursework rather than freezing in an exam hall which is so far removed from the reality of work

in other words the vast majority of our young people are to going to be considered not important due to these new qualifications and ultimately by school management as their rating on the league tables will be based on the elite few that can access, understand and are able to be assessed in this limited range of subjects using this manner of assessment rather than all students who deserve to be.

Chloe - that is why teachers are so against something that discriminates against so many of our students

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