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Grammar schools in tougher ranking call

Grammar schools in tougher ranking call

BBC |May 2, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

England’s grammar schools should be rated on tougher league table measures, a report suggests.

They should be ranked on how many pupils get A and A* grades at GCSE, says a study for the Schools Network.

Schools in England are measured on how many pupils get A* to C grades in five GCSEs, including maths and English.

The report also shows wide variations in both the intake of grammar schools in different parts of England and in pupils’performance at GCSE.

In general, it found that grammars in less wealthy areas were more likely to have pupils who entered them with lower academic attainment than other grammars.

Performance at GCSE was also relatively lower, although still high when compared with the national average.

Usually grammars come high up in the academic league tables, with most scoring close to 100% in the government’s chosen measure- pupils getting five A* to C grades including maths and English.

Among pupils at comprehensives, about 58% reach that level.


The study was carried out by Professor David Jesson for the Schools Network. He is an associate director of the organisation, which represents 5,000 schools and academies, including about 100 of England’s 164 grammar schools.

Professor Jesson looked at how the schools measured up against each other if ranked on what proportion of pupils got five GCSEs including maths and English all at A* or A grades.

He said: “I am quite surprised by the findings because of the range of outcomes for schools which appear to recruit very similar students.

“The 19 schools in London are really quite outstanding. The South East [Kent and Medway] came lowest.

“More important, there was quite a range of outcomes between schools in each area.”

Grammar schools are small in number compared with other secondaries; there are about 3,500 secondary schools and academies in England.


Professor Jesson, of the University of York, says his study shows some grammar schools need to improve.

“Grammar schools should expect to achieve high levels of performance for their pupils and most do. There are however substantial differences between grammar schools’ outcomes which tend to go unnoticed in the standard performance tables.

“If we are genuinely committed to the idea of excellence for all we need a new way of measuring the performance of these schools and making sure that every pupil reaches their full potential.”

Those opposed to academic selection believe it widens the gap between rich and poor, and say grammar schools tend to be dominated by the middle classes.

Just over 2% of children at grammar schools are eligible for free school meals compared with a national average of about 16%.

The campaign group Comprehensive Future says it does not want to see grammar schools abolished – just the 11-plus exam which is used to select pupils.

Fiona Millar from the group said: “I do think it is important that the performance of grammars is scrutinised more closely.

“The 5 A* -C measure is quite a crude one with which to judge schools that are already taking the top 20-30% of children.

“There is an assumption that they are all outstanding schools, but we should be allowed to see more evidence about whether the teaching and progress does justify that claim.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “No school can ever afford to rest on its laurels.

“We want to make sure that all schools are stretching their brightest pupils and that schools with very able intakes are helping students reach their full potential rather than allowing them to coast along.

“The tables now show expected and actual performance for low, middle and high-attaining pupils so that schools can be judged on whether they are improving all their students.”


School maths should be more practical, say teenagers

School maths should be more practical, say teenagers

BBC |May 2, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News_

Maths lessons are seen as difficult, irrelevant and boring by about a third of teenagers, a survey suggests.

Some of the school pupils surveyed for vocational training providers City & Guilds also called for the subject to be geared more towards real life.

But most agreed that maths would be useful once they had left school.

Chris Jones of City & Guilds said: “We are not saying maths should be dumbed down, but it needs to be more relevant to the real world.”

Researchers for City and Guilds interviewed 3,000 school pupils aged from seven to 18 on their attitudes to employment and beliefs about future employment prospects.

The survey results showed that 69% of young people believed that as a subject, maths could help them become successful.

Among seven- to 11-year-olds, 85% agreed that maths would be useful once they left school – but a substantial minority of 16- to 18-year-olds said they found the subject boring (39%), difficult (36%) or irrelevant (30%).

Teenagers had clear ideas for how maths teaching could be improved, with 54% saying it should be geared more to practical scenarios.

One commented: “Show me how I can use maths in business, to do accounts or banking.”

Another said: “Somehow I doubt I’ll use trigonometry anytime in the future.”

Mr Jones said: “Our research shows young people are keen to learn maths and recognise the importance of the subject, but there needs to be more emphasis on the practical application of maths in schools to ensure young people have the skills employers need.”

Tim Stirrup from the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics commented: “Mathematics can be enjoyable as a subject in its own right.

“Introducing how mathematics is applied in the workplace is indeed a useful tool for teaching and learning mathematics.”

‘Ambitious and entrepreneurial’The survey also looked at how optimistic pupils were about the future, finding that 61% of seven- to 11-year-olds were confident that they would succeed in life, rising to nearly three-quarters of 16- to 18-year-olds.

However, 23% of older teenagers were concerned about finding a job, and 63% worried about money.

The report suggests that today’s young people are ambitious and entrepreneurial, with almost half of the 16- to 18-year-olds questioned saying that they would like to run their own business.

Contact with employers was the most highly rated source of information on jobs, with 88% of 16- to 18-year-olds saying a visit to an employer had been useful.

However, the report also suggests that only a quarter of this age group had actually visited a potential employer.

The report says that most young people have done work experience, but many found their work placement irrelevant or of poor quality.

Mr Jones said: “More needs to be done to ensure young people get the advice and experience they deserve.”

Girls and sport: Schools urged to make PE more attractive to girls

Girls and sport: Schools urged to make PE more attractive to girls

BBC |May 1, 2012

By Jane Hughes Health correspondent, BBC News

Schools are being urged to introduce more female-friendly fitness activities such as Zumba classes and rollerblading because so many girls are opting out of exercise.

Research suggests the gap between the amount of exercise girls and boys do widens during their time at school.

A study for the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation says more than half of girls are put off by PE classes.

The WSFF wants schools to make sports lessons more appealing to girls.

The research was conducted by Loughborough University, which found big differences in the attitudes of girls and boys towards doing sport.

Those differences were wider among older schoolchildren.

Falling exercise levels

Eight-year-olds did similar levels of activity: about 60% of those questioned, both girls and boys, said they did regular exercise – at least an hour, five days a week.

But among 14-year-old girls, that figure had halved – only 31% said they exercised regularly, compared with 50% of 14-year-old boys.

The research found most girls wanted to do more physical activity, but many were put off by PE classes.

Some said they did not like exercising in front of boys, and they were not confident about their sporting skills.

Girls at Willowfield School in east London talk about why they enjoy sport

A number felt teachers paid too much attention to the girls who were best at sport.

Role models

Girls were also concerned about what their friends thought about exercise, and said getting sweaty was not feminine.

And many of those questioned said they did not think there were enough female sporting role models.

The WSFF is writing to schools offering advice on how to make school sports more attractive to girls.

WSFF said some PE lessons were “stuck in the 1950s jolly-hockey-sticks style of the past”.

“It’s simply unacceptable that the overwhelming majority of our young women are leaving school with dangerously low levels of physical activity,” said WSFF chief executive Sue Tibbals.

“We can’t afford to keep ignoring the evidence that school sport plays a key role in shaping attitudes to sports and fitness.”

The Youth Sport Trust said schools needed to do more to address issues such as girls feeling body conscious or lacking confidence in their abilities.

“Schools that deliver PE well recognise these challenges and offer a wider variety of sports and physical activity that make girls feel included,” said chairwoman Baroness Sue Campbell.

“We would like to see all schools take this approach.”

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