Mathematically Challenged Education Authority

What hope do the children have?

In the UK we suffer a very bad obsession with league tables in which the performance of every public body is graded (on an arbitrary scale) and compared against others – rarely in a like for like but that is another matter.

As you can imagine, schools bear the brunt of this. Parents are understandably determined to get their children the best education possible, often moving across the country to be in the catchment area of their chosen school. Most of this one-upmanship is derived from the school tables, helpfully published on the BBC website.

All the trust has to be placed in what ever body is responsible for collecting these numbers. Are they up to the task?

Idly surfing the web, I came upon this educational report on the BBC. It is the stats for an infants/primary school (ages 3 – 11) in Shrewsbury. All normal. Have a look at the stats and it seems like its a reasonably good school – it performs above the average for its educational authority, which is also above the average nationally.

Then have a look at this:

PERFORMANCE
37 eligible, 18.9% of whom had special educational needs

At first glance it seems normal and slightly low compared to some schools.

Then look at the numbers.

18.9% of 37 is 6.993.

This means that 6.993 students have special educational needs. How is that possible? Is this just a rounding problem? No, because 7 pupils would be 19% in any normal formulation.

Either the organisation who collates the stats is mathematically challenged, or they have massaged the numbers to make it look lower than it is (and are ethically challenged).

Whichever it is, how much faith can you have in this system?

Down Wiv Da Kidz Part 2

Previously I have commented on how the “youth” of today are pretty much down trodden by adults and today there has been another screaming example of it.

Today is the day school children learn their “A” level results (final school exams) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The A level exam is the culmination of 13 years schooling and decides what (if any) university education the person can begin. The exams are taken in around 3 subjects and follow two years of dedicated study. In a nutshell, they are very important for the children who sit them.

Set against this, is the news headline “A level pass and A grades up” in which the BBC leads with:

There has been another increase in the A-level pass rate and the proportion of entries awarded the top A grade.

This has set the talking heads on various news outlets raging. There is, weirdly, outrage that a higher percentage of people who have sat A levels have passed this year than last year, and this pattern has (apparently) been the case for the last two decades. If you listened to some of the radio news programmes today you would think this was the end of the world, but for context we can go back to the BBC:

Figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications show 97.2% of entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland passed, up from 96.9%.

Yes, the increase is actually only 0.3% – not exactly head line news… Interestingly, these figures are broken down as follows: (source BBC)

  • UK: 97.2%
  • Northern Ireland: 98.2%
  • England: 97.2%
  • Wales: 97.6%

(Call me old fashioned but that appears to be an average of 97.67% but obviously Wales and Northern Ireland dont count as much. 🙂 )

In a normal world, you would think that there was much to celebrate in this numbers – our children are studying harder, our teachers are working harder, our schools are better, access to things like the internet are improving education and so on.

Oh no. In this world all this means is our exams are “too easy.” The notoriously literate tabloid press is calling for an “overhaul” of the exam system because obviously it is not testing enough if after two solid years of study, backed up by a further 11 years of general education, nearly every one passes. Ironically, I have been on a seven day professional course which had an exam (and awarded a qualification deemed to be at a higher level than an A level) and it was assumed that after SEVEN days study EVERYONE would pass the exam. Does that make the qualification “worthless?”

For some reason we live in a world where no matter what children do it is never enough. If they play outdoors they are accused of being “hoodies,” if they play indoors they are anti-social fatties, if they fail at school they are unemployable retards and if they do well then, obviously, exams are too easy.

Is it any wonder they seem to be unwilling to get involved in our society? Shame on us all.

For any one reading this who got their results today and passed – well done, the exams are hard and you have done well to pass.

(and my heart goes out doubly to the poor teachers – they work harder now than when I was at school yet any sign they are producing better standards of education and obviously it just means the exams are too easy…”)

Gore, Nobel Prize and the BBC…

On the BBC editors’ blog, Craig Oliver discussed Al Gore’s Nobel prize, in the context of the BBC’s decision to lead Wednesday’s night’s news with a judge’s ruling that there were 9 errors of fact in “An inconvenient truth.”

Oliver says the Nobel prize is “controversial” as the award raises the question “What does climate change have to do with world peace?”

Well Craig, there’s this little thing called an ecosystem. All our lives depend on it. When it gets too damaged to support life, we are going to have to fight over the dwindling store of global life -supporting goodness.

I’m not a judge or a scientist, so I would have thought that 9 “errors” was about normal for a documentary. It’s a truism that, if you know about any topic, you will always find any media reports about that topic to be full of gaping holes.

I would have thought, in this context, that a more suitable topic for the BBC News to consider would be why would anyone spend the enormous sums required to take such a case to the High Court to stop schools showing a documentary? Hadn’t they thought of contacting the school or the local education committee, if they were that stressed about it?

How much did this little exercise cost “school governor Stewart Dimmock, from Dover, a father of two, who is a member of the New Party.”?

The judge awarded Mr Dimmock two-thirds of his estimated legal costs of more than £200,000, against the government.

Are there many parents/school governors out there who are so rich beyond the dreams of avarice that they will spend a sum that would take about 15 years to earn at a minimum wage rate on telling teachers what documentaries they can show in schools?

The New Party? Who are these legally minded philanthropists? Given the sums of money at their disposal, cosying up to them looks like almost as canny a financial move as a brief marriage to a former Beatle.