Teachers Tempted To Rewrite Pupils’ Exam Answers

Teachers Tempted To Rewrite Pupils’ Exam Answers

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Headteachers consider strike

Seven out of ten teachers polled said pressure to improve their pupils’ grades has intensified. Photograph Rui Vieira/PA

More than a third of teachers have admitted they could be tempted to re-write their pupils’ exam answers, according to a poll.

Some 35% of teachers said the pressure to improve their students’ grades was now so strong they could be persuaded to cheat.

A few admitted cheating was already rife in their schools in the survey of 512 teachers conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

One secondary school French teacher, who didn’t want to be named, told the pollsters she “virtually re-wrote” students’ work to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them:

“I do this simply because there is not time to do both.”

A primary school teacher told the pollsters she had “been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up”. “Our head fears an Ofsted inspection should our results waver.”

A secondary school teacher said their school “definitely pushes the boundaries of exam integrity”. Maintaining the school’s status in league tables “took precedence over developing the abilities of pupils,” they said.

A spokesman from the Department for Education said parents would be “absolutely outraged” if teachers were manipulating exam or test scores.

“There is absolutely no excuse for teachers cheating … It undermines other staff, damages children’s education and risks destroying the public’s faith in the profession.”

He said all the leading education systems in the world had“robust” testing in schools and classroom inspections. “Parents and the taxpayer would rightly be asking questions if they couldn’t judge how schools are doing,” he said.

Some 71% of those polled said pressure to improve their pupils’grades had increased in the past two years. Teachers were asked to list the groups placing pressure on them. Some 88% said their headteachers, 51% said inspectors and 50% said parents. Just over a third said the government.

The majority of teachers offer after-school classes, while 9% said they sometimes give up weekends to coach pupils. Just over a quarter gave rewards to pupils to encourage them to study harder.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said the government’s“persistent” focus on tests, exams and league tables left teachers under “enormous pressure” and that this was “often to the detriment to high quality teaching and learning.”

“Results now appear to be more important than learning this does nothing to help children’s progress,” she said. The government needs to think urgently about relieving the pressure on headteachers and leaders. This pressure simply filters on to teachers and lecturers in the classroom.”

Thousands of teachers and lecturers will gather in Manchester on Monday for ATL’s annual conference.

A Radical Manifesto For Teaching Computing

A Radical Manifesto For Teaching Computing

The Guardian World News

Students working on computers

What’s missing from teaching computing in schools is a big vision. Photograph: Alamy

A vigorous debate has begun – within government and elsewhere – about what should be done about information and communication technology (ICT) in the school curriculum. Various bodies – the Royal Society, the Association for Learning Technology, Computing at School (a grassroots organisation of concerned teachers) and the British Computer Society, to name just four – have published reports and discussion documents aimed at ministers and the Department for Education. Michael Gove, the education secretary, made an enigmatic speech at the recent BETT technology conference indicating that a rethink is under way in the bowels of Whitehall. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, there are some astonishing developments happening – such as the fact that more than a million people have already placed orders for Raspberry Pi, the cheap, credit-card-sized computer developed by Cambridge geeks, which began shipping last week.

So something’s happening: there’s a sense of tectonic plates shifting. But as with most big policy debates, there’s a lot of axe-grinding, lobbying and special pleading going on. Universities want to reverse the decline in applicants for computer science courses. Gaming companies want more programmers. The government wants more high-tech start-ups. Manufacturers want trainees who can design embedded systems. And head teachers want bigger budgets for even more computer labs. And so on.

What’s missing from all this is a big vision. So here’s my shot at one:

Starting in primary school, children from all backgrounds and every part of the UK should have the opportunity to: learn some of the key ideas of computer science; understand computational thinking; learn to program; and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence in these activities.

We’ll get to why this is important and necessary in a moment, but first we need to face up to a painful fact. It is that almost everything we have done over the last two decades in the area of ICT education in British schools has been misguided and largely futile. Instead of educatingchildren about the most revolutionary technology of their young lifetimes, we have focused on training them to use obsolescent software products. And we did this because we fell into what the philosopher Gilbert Ryle would have called a “category mistake” – an error in which things of one kind are presented as if they belonged to another. We made the mistake of thinking that learning about computing is like learning to drive a car, and since a knowledge of internal combustion technology is not essential for becoming a proficient driver, it followed that an understanding of how computers work was not important for our children. The crowning apotheosis of this category mistake is a much-vaunted “qualification” called the European Computer Driving Licence.

What we forgot was that cars don’t run the world, monitor our communications, power our mobile phones, manage our bank accounts, keep our diaries, mediate our social relationships, snoop on our social activities and even – in some countries – count our votes. But networked computers do all of these things, and a lot more besides.

So we need to admit that “ICT in schools” has become a toxic brand. We have to replace it with a subject that is relevant, intellectually sustaining and life-enhancing for students. For want of a better name, let us call it computer science. This is an umbrella term that covers two distinct areas. First a set of key concepts that are essential if schoolchildren are to understand the networked world in which they are growing up. And second, computer science involves a new way of thinking about problem-solving: it’s called computational thinking, and it’s about understanding the difference between human and artificial intelligence, as well as about thinking recursively, being alert to the need for prevention, detection and protection against risks, using abstraction and decomposition when tackling large tasks, and deploying heuristic reasoning, iteration and search to discover solutions to complex problems.

There will be lots of interesting discussions about the key concepts that students will need to understand, but here’s one possible list for starters. Kids need to know about: algorithms (the mathematical recipes that make up programs); cryptography (how confidential information is protected on the net); machine intelligence (how services such as YouTube, NetFlix, Google and Amazon predict your preferences); computational biology (how the genetic code works); search (how we find needles in a billion haystacks); recursion (a method where the solution to a problem depends on solutions to smaller instances of the same problem); and heuristics (experience-based techniques for problem-solving, learning, and discovery).

If these concepts seem arcane to most readers, it’s because we live in a culture that has systematically blindsided them to such ideas for generations. In that sense, CP Snow’s“Two Cultures” are alive and well and living in the UK. And if you think they are too sophisticated to be taught to small children, then that’s because you’ve never seen gifted and imaginative teachers go to work on them. In fact many UK readers in their 30s will have been exposed to recursion, for example, because once upon a time many UK schools taught Logo programming, enabling children to learn how a mechanised turtle could be instructed to carry out complex manoeuvres. But in the end most of those schools gave up teaching Logo and moved backwards to training kids to use Microsoft Word.

Incidentally, the Logo story provides a good illustration of why teaching kids to write computer programs has to be an integral part of any new computer science curriculum. The reason is that there’s no better way of helping someone to understand ideas such as recursion or algorithms than by getting them to write the code that will implement those concepts. That’s why the fashionable mantra that emerged recently – that “code is the new Latin” –is so perniciously clueless. It implies that programming is an engaging but fundamentally useless and optional skill. Latin is an intriguing, but dead, language; computer code is the lingo of networked life – and also, it turns out, of genetic replication.

Another misconception that is currently rife in the debate about a new curriculum is that the primary rationale for it is economic: we need more kids to understand this stuff because our “creative”industries need an inflow of recruits who can write code, which in turn implies our universities need a constant inflow of kids who are turned on by computers. That’s true, of course, but it’s not the main reason why we need to make radical changes in our educational system.

The biggest justification for change is not economic but moral. It is that if we don’t act now we will be short-changing our children. They live in a world that is shaped by physics, chemistry, biology and history, and so we – rightly –want them to understand these things. But their world will be also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don’t have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind.

Is that what we want? Of course not. So let’s get on with it.

Exam Pressure ‘Undermining Teacher’s Integrity’

Exam Pressure ‘Undermining Teacher’s Integrity’

BBC |April 2, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
Some teachers’ professional integrity is being undermined by the pressure to get good exam results, a union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers says teachers have been forced to “manipulate results” and even “re-write students’work” to boost results.

A snapshot survey of ATL members found a third felt their integrity was being compromised by what was asked of them.

ATL head Dr Mary Bousted said results seemed to be more valued than learning.

The union carried out research with 512 of its teacher members working in state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It said teachers felt under increasing pressure to get pupils through tests and exams.

About two-thirds of those surveyed were supplying pupils with more practice tests and running after-school classes or one-to-one classes.

A third said they had helped pupils prepare by attending meetings to find out “exam themes”.

A quarter of teachers felt obliged to attend exam board seminars to help their pupils get ahead.

And some 35% said the pressure they were under could compromise their professional integrity.

‘Impossible’One teacher at a primary school in England said: “I have been forced to manipulate results so that levels of progress stay up, as our head fears [there will be] an Ofsted inspection should our results waver.

“I work in an infant school.”

Another at an English secondary school said: “The school I work at definitely pushes the boundaries of exam integrity.

“Maintaining their “gold-plated” status by far takes precedence over developing the abilities of the pupils.”

He added: “Controlled assessments and aspects of coursework are problem areas for cheating, with senior leadership driving the agenda.”

And a third, a teacher in a grammar school in Northern Ireland, said: “In some cases I end up virtually rewriting my students’homework to match the marking criteria, rather than teach them my subject, French. I do this because there is simply not time to do both!”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “There is absolutely no excuse for teachers cheating.

“Parents will be absolutely outraged to hear anyone admit they’ve manipulated test scores. It undermines other staff, damages children’s education and risks destroying the public’s faith in the profession.”

‘Failures’Others focused on the stress on pupils. There appeared to be a consensus among teachers that the pressure was damaging for pupils as well.

Nine out of 10 teachers surveyed said they felt tests and exams were the biggest source of pressure on pupils and young people, causing increased anxiety for them.

One teacher from an English primary school said: “I fear we are switching a great many pupils off before they have even left primary school!”

Dr Bousted said children in the UK were among the most tested in the world.

“This creates a huge pressure on young people, with many whose progress has been outstanding on a personal or emotional level feeling like failures following test and exam results.

“With the government’s persistent focus on tests, exam results and league tables, many teachers and lecturers also feel under enormous pressure – often at the detriment to high quality teaching, learning and development of their pupils.”

She called for the government to look again at its test and exams regime.

Councils Sell Properties To Fund School Refurbishment

Councils Sell Properties To Fund School Refurbishment

news | Published in TES magazine on 30 March, 2012| By: Richard Vaughan

Local authorities shed assets to plug gap left by BSF cancellation

Town hall chiefs are being forced to sell public assets in a bid to raise cash to refurbish schools, after the cancellation of the government’s multibillion-pound school rebuilding programme.

Both Camden and Liverpool councils have announced plans to auction land and public buildings to generate much-needed funds to patch up their crumbling school estates. The two local authorities had been in line to receive hundreds of millions of pounds under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, but the scheme was scrapped by education secretary Michael Gove 18 months ago.

The cancellation of BSF was compounded by the near 80 per cent cuts to schools’ devolved capital formula grants, which allow headteachers to pay for general maintenance.

Camden’s schools were anticipating £200 million in extra capital from BSF, but council bosses have had to resort to selling some of their assets to make up the shortfall. The North London borough believes it is in an almost unique position to cope with the cuts to its capital budget, owing to the capital’s high property prices. The council anticipates raising £117 million to help improve 57 schools and children’s centres, including building a completely new primary school.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden’s cabinet member for finance, said the local authority has made the commitment to invest any proceeds it raises into schools to avoid a “crisis” five years down the line.

The capital is facing a school places emergency. It is estimated that by 2015, areas such as Camden will be in need of tens of thousands more places owing to demographic changes.

“We know if we don’t invest in our schools then people will end up voting with their feet and teachers and parents will end up leaving our schools. We lost £200 million, and by not continuing to invest in schools, in five years’ time schools would be facing a capital crisis,” Mr Blackwell said.

Fiona Millar, chair of governors at the borough’s William Ellis School, said that while her school was “extremely grateful” for the work the council had done, the amount of capital being made available by the government “for small refurbishments” was discouraging.

Camden said it was trying to take innovative approaches to school refurbishment, with one school, Netley Primary, being funded by building affordable housing above the school. According to the council, a £9 million refurbishment of the school will be paid for by the sale of £28 million of private housing on the same site.

Liverpool council is looking at equally imaginative solutions. The local authority lost £350 million of BSF money, but revealed a £100 million rescue package back in September.

The city has brokered a deal to build three schools with a construction company, EdVenture, which builds flexible learning environments similar to structures used in airport terminals that can be constructed at half the cost of conventional schools.

The first school to have proposals drawn up was Notre Dame Catholic College, which could share its site with a doctors’surgery and an indoor market. Notre Dame’s headteacher Frances Harrison said she was looking forward to the possibility of a new building for the school.

“More than 80 per cent of our students come from within two miles of our new building’s location, which means this regeneration will create local facilities for local people,” she said.

ACADEMIES CUT OFF

Camden Council has warned any school contemplating converting to academy status that it will not receive any rebuilding cash from the local authority.

Council chiefs have told heads that if they go independent they will have to source capital from the government or their academy sponsors.

None of the borough’s schools has opted to convert. The UCL Academy, which opens this year, will be Camden’s only academy.

“It’s a question of fairness. We don’t think money that is for local authority schools should be made available to academies as that would not be fair to the maintained schools,” Councillor Theo Blackwell said.

Funding Reform Is Off The Agenda

Funding Reform Is Off The Agenda

news | Published in TES magazine on 30 March, 2012| By: Richard Vaughan

Michael Gove accused of ‘bottling it’ over plans to overhaul ‘unfair’ system

Local authorities representing the worst-funded schools in the country have accused education secretary Michael Gove of “bottling it” over plans to bring in a fairer funding system that would eliminate financial inequalities between schools.

Last year, the government launched a consultation to radically reform how schools were funded by 2013-14 in an attempt to deal with disparities that have led to similar schools being funded at drastically different levels.

Speaking at the time, schools minister Lord Hill was clear that it was a “priority”. “Headteachers tell us that the current funding system is unfair and illogical,” he said.“Having a fairer system is not just right in principle – it would enable parents to see more clearly how schools are doing with the funding they receive.”

But this week, Mr Gove admitted that he has been forced to drop any plans to rush through a new settlement within this Parliament. He said that, while there is a clear need to tackle the differences in funding between schools, the current economic climate means that“stability must be a priority”.

The sheer complexity of the current system and the size of the existing inequalities, Mr Gove said, mean that “we need to take care in how we proceed”. He added that the government has decided “to make gradual progress towards reform”.

His decision to kick the reforms into the long grass – certainly until after the next election in 2015 – has led to concerns among campaigners that the policy has been effectively shelved.

The move comes as a bitter blow for the country’s worst-funded schools, with the f40 group, an organisation that campaigns for fairer school funding in the country’s lowest-funded local authorities, stating that it was“devastated” by the news and that Mr Gove had“bottled it”.

The current funding system means that the funding per pupil in a primary school can vary by as much as £1,300 in different parts of the country, while the disparity between secondary schools can reach £1,800 per student. In a 1,000-pupil school, the funding system can mean a secondary receiving £1.8 million less – the equivalent of around 40 new teachers.

Schools in central London, for instance, receive far greater sums per pupil than schools in Somerset.

Ivan Ould, chair of the f40 group and a Leicestershire county councillor, added that the announcement to put off a fairer funding formula was “totally unacceptable”.

“Mr Gove and his government have made it clear that they accept that the present system is unfair, so to put off meaningful change for a further three years – but probably many more – is just plain wrong,” Mr Ould said.

The f40 group has been campaigning for a change to how schools are funded for nearly 20 years, and it added that it will be pushing for an increase in funding to its members’ schools over the remainder of this Parliament.

“Even if only 0.25% had been offered immediately and again in the next few years, that would have been a start to narrow the disparity gap,” Mr Ould added.

Kevin Bullock, head of Fordham Church of England Primary School in Cambridgeshire, said that he and his colleagues were“longing for the day” when schools were more equally funded.

“The council does the best it can with limited resources but, at the end of the day, it isn’t fair,” Mr Bullock said. “I am not sure that there is the political will to change the system. Call me cynical, but I’ve been head here for 16 years and we’ve always had less funding – I won’t be holding my breath that it will come any time soon.”

The government is keenly aware of the problems that beset the way the country’s schools are allocated money, but has been pegged back by the sheer complexity of the existing funding method.

But while the country’s worst-funded schools have expressed their disappointment, the decision to delay a new funding formula has been welcomed by heads’ and teachers’leaders.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has repeatedly warned that any new formula could produce new inequalities in the system.

Speaking at the ASCL’s annual conference last weekend, the education secretary pointed out the level of complexity in the existing funding formula, claiming that “even Malcolm Trobe”, the ASCL’s deputy general secretary for policy, could not say why schools end up with the amount of cash they do.

And Mr Trobe acknowledged that, while it was a disappointment for the worst-funded schools, the delay was a “sensible decision”. “Rushing into overly simplistic funding changes without proper testing would simply be rearranging the deckchairs,” Mr Trobe said. “Because it is so difficult to predict the knock-on effect of changing one part of the formula, the proposals must be thoroughly modelled at both local authority and school level before they are implemented.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower added that changing a funding system at a time of budget constraints “was not fair”.

INNER-CITY LOSSES

A report by the highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) looking into a new, fairer funding formula said that it would lead to schools in inner-city areas suffering cuts of more than 10 per cent to their budgets.

In November last year, the IFS released a study that showed schools in areas such as Liverpool, Wigan, Wolverhampton and Coventry would see their budgets shrink by an average of 6 per cent, but in some cases more than 10 per cent.

“An explicit national formula offers significant advantages, including simplicity, transparency and responsiveness of school funding,” said Luke Sibieta, senior research economist at the IFS. “But change would also bring costs and disruption with large losses for some schools.”

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