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Showing posts from October, 2020

A little less conversation, a little more action please

T he impact of coronavirus on schools and examinations served to bring the inequalities in education into the light of day. But alongside this there has been an overwhelming sense that analysis, analysis, analysis has overtaken positive action. The words of the Elvis Presley song were penned in a somewhat different context back in 1968. But they have been used in many political campaigns since. They are revisited here because it seems we have a government that has seen plenty of evidence of the searing inequalities in fair access to education and opportunity yet choses to turn away from taking adequate action.  Yet another analysis emerged in Scotland that shows the profound inequalities that exist and are exacerbated by government policies. This was revealed on the 18th October 2020 in a report on the distribution of downgraded of exam results in Scotland this summer. It took a closer look under the weighty stone of ‘standardisation’ and found things the government would like to be

It’s all about rocks, fees and REF: Focus on Scotland’s Universities

The stone edifice of free university tuition for students from Scotland heated up last week with the release of the first Scottish Funding Council report on its review of ‘Coherent Provision and the Sustainability of Colleges and Universities’ . This emerged just as the Ofqual board minutes were released in England (TEFS 23rd October 2020 ‘Ofqual lets the cat out of the bag’ ). A decision made by the Scottish government, in changing their minds on how they had standardised exam grades, blindsided the government in England and led to a chaotic U-turn. The review of provision in Scotland’s universities and colleges may now herald a further divergence from arrangements in the rest of the UK as the case for independence unfolds. REF is on hold for now while the UK government reviews its REF agenda. The hope is the deficit in teaching provision caused by REF is looked at more critically.  Melting rocks.  While rocks have yet to ‘melt in the sun’, there seem to be some significant cracks ap

Ofqual lets the cat out of the bag

Ofqual concluded this week that they had little option but to release the minutes of their board meetings. The news broke yesterday, and they are now in the public domain ( Ofqual board minutes for 2020 and Ofqual board minutes for 2019 ). They make for sobering and very depressing reading as the extent of confusion and conflict between Ofqual and the government is revealed. As time progressed, and students were sent their results, the public became aware of the extent of the blunder. The Scottish government was the first to realise the enormity of the error they had made and took full responsibility at the political level. The administrations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland capitulated in their own way. There was utter confusion in England, poor communication, and a blame game. It seems the minutes released an angry 'cat out of the bag'. The actions of the government in England probably reflect their reluctance to let go of their ‘standardisation’ process that mainta

Chasing the bus: White, disadvantaged and left behind

There is a growing unease about  the numbers of young ‘White’ people missing out on educational opportunities. It seems they are chasing after a bus they missed, or simply could not afford the fare, and are playing catch up throughput their lives. However, the problem becomes confused by constant use of the term ‘working class’ and the Education Committee fell into this obvious trap on Friday. There is a clear issue about first identifying who they are. Then there are observations from different perspectives contaminating objective evidence and how it is interpreted. The emphasis is too often put onto less tangible reasons such as lack of aspiration. But there are many different factors that must be disentangled. The Education Committee must try to do this. The first thing to do is to separate lack of resources and poverty away from the real scandal of racial discrimination. Using the term ‘White’ at the outset simply confuses the two issues. Then, accept that aspiration and encourag

Ofqual holding back information

Ofqual has responded to an FOI request from TEFS this week. They held a staggering twenty-nine board meetings since March. Despite promising the Parliamentary Education Committee over a month ago they would publish the minutes “shortly” after their meeting on 16th September, they are still not able to do so. They cite “exemption for information that is intended to be published in the future” for minutes that are in the “process of being approved for publication” . More concerning is they are also citing exemption under the “Public Interest Test”. This means they might not be published, and Ofqual will open themselves up to legal challenges. If both the Department for Education and Ofqual are prevented from being more open, then public interest will lie shattered on the floor and lessons will not be learned.  Ofqual finally responded to the TEFS Freedom of Information (FOI) request to publish the minutes of its board meetings on Tuesday. It should have been replied to by 17th Septembe

Don’t ignore the dashboard warnings and don’t blame the students

A sharp rise in students testing positive for Coronavirus ( SARS-CoV-2 ) has coincided with a return to tighter lockdown measures announced yesterday. While some media outlets looked toward the role of students and universities ( Daily Mail and  Guardian yesterday), the WHO’s Director-General held a media briefing and denounced calls for a ‘herd immunity’ approach with “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic”. The UK is becoming a dangerous place for the least advantaged and most vulnerable. The government, projected directly from No10, ignored the advice of its own scientists three weeks ago and deliberately led us to this pivotal point in time. Whatever the motivation, they are heading for a ‘herd immunity’ resolution and are prepared to sacrifice people to achieve this. The most chilling passage in the ignored SAGE advice on the 21st Sept

COVID-19 in Universities, widening gaps and ‘Herd Immunity’: SAGE Advice

UPDATE 12th October 2020  The report of the latest  SAGE meeting on COVID-19 , from the 21s t September 2020 was released today. It confirms what we suspected all along. The government was clearly advised not to open universities and colleges for face-to -face teaching as one of five serious recommendations. Whilst some of them are only being introduced from today, the universities are not being asked to go online. Despite this, many will be planning to do so as even more students become infected. It surely looks like the government. It surely looks as if No10 is going its own deliberate way. It is noticeable that there was an anonymous observer from No10 (arrowed). However, the notes indicate this was one of several junior officials who were redacted. Original post from 9th October 2020 The metaphor of a stampede of nearly a million students onto our university campuses in the last few weeks fits well with the notion that ‘herd immunity’ is back on the agenda. What better way to spr