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A Broken System Change Needed

School fails the brightest students says government

Over recent years Ofsted have highlighted the way in which the ‘brightest’ children are being failed by school. The solution is apparently more tests

In 2013 Ofsted released a report concluding that the ‘brightest students’ were being failed by the school system. The report referenced 2012 results from non-selective secondary schools.

The key findings from the report being launched today include:

  • almost two thirds of 65% of high-attaining pupils – those leaving primary school with a Level 5 in both English and mathematics – did not achieve an A* or A grade (a key predictor to success at A level and progression to university) in both these GCSE subjects. (65,000 students)
  • just over a quarter (27%) of these previously high-attaining students did not achieve a B grade in both English and mathematics at GCSE in 2012. This represented just over 27,000 young people
  • in a fifth of the 1,649 non-selective 11-18 schools, no students achieved the minimum of two A grades and one B grade in at least two of the A-level subjects required by many of our most prestigious universities

Ofsted said that the lack of focus on the needs of the most able allowed students to coast, meaning they did not make the progress needed. Work was generally pitched to the middle of classes ability and there was lack of evaluation on how well mixed-ability group teaching was challenging the most able.

In 2016 the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, again said that bright students, especially those from poor backgrounds, were being failed. Again 27% of previously high-attaining pupils had failed to even achieve the minimum expected progress – a grade B in both English and maths at GCSE. He said it was a scandal that the achievement gap between free school meals pupils and those not on free meals at age 16 had not improved over ten years.

The answer said Sir Michael Wilshaw was more tests. He said the government understood how important the issue was which is why they had introduced tougher tests in primary school. He also said we need more new tests. Specifically, we need to reintroduce the tests for 14-year olds which Labour had scrapped.

There is considerable evidence that in fact English school children are already struggling under the weight of the existing regime of tests.

Considering that school also fails those at the ‘bottom’ it is hard to see quite who school is not failing. Which might of course be yet another contributing factor for why growing numbers of parents and children are choosing to take responsibility for their education rather than leave it in the hands of people who think more tests is the answer to everything.

Read more

Too many bright children let down in the state system (12 June 2013)
Thousands of bright pupils let down, says Ofsted (BBC, 10 June 2016)


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