Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
First, the data derived from the tables is used by most state schools to set individual and school targets. They are helped to do so by organisations such as the Fischer Family Trust and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which allow them to compare like with like, but show how much more ambitious many schools can be. There is no question whatsoever that this is driving up standards. The only reason why this data is available is because it is collected by the government. If it is collected by the government, it must also be published. That is what the newspapers use to create their league tables.
Second, when primary tables were first published in 1997, few parents knew much about how well - or poorly - their primary schools were doing. Their publication showed just how many coasting schools there were, prompting measures that led to a real improvement in literacy and numeracy standards. Without comparative data, there would not have been that improvement.
So, the data collected for league tables does help drive up standards in many schools; though, I am prepared to concede that they may not do so in schools where the pupil who fails is the one without 5 As at A level.
Monday, 28 April 2008
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Party strategists have identified four archetypes based on popular television programmes to help them target swing voters. These include “Holby City worker”, a middle-ranking health service employee; “Top Gear man”, who is angry with Labour’s petty bureaucracy; the “Apprentice generation”, young professionals coming to terms with political and financial reality; and finally the “Grand Designs couple”, the young aspirational family pursuing an ethical lifestyle.Such advertising awfulness should come as no surprise with today's Tories. David Cameron's interview with Andrew Marr this morning showed him completely unable to name a single thing he would cut (aside from "MPs' allowances", which are neither here nor there in the public finances) to be more fiscally responsible that the government he derides.
Perhaps Central Office should add another demographic - "Mad Men MPs," Opposition politicians so desperate to win, that they have abandoned policy for PR?
Saturday, 26 April 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Monday, 21 April 2008
Sunday, 20 April 2008
This is of a piece with the self-selected statistics being used by the Tory front bench to maintain that despite a third more pupils gaining five decent GCSEs every year than when they left power - and despite the fact that the number of schools where fewer than 30% reach this standard falling from half to a fifth of secondaries - the system is somehow getting worse. As Table 1 in this release shows, the proportion of pupils achieving five A-G grades at GCSE or equivalent has risen every year since 1997.
The Tories only reach their conclusion by discounting the vocational qualifications - including functional English and Maths - that schools often use (and have increasingly done since 1997) to engage young people less likely to achieve academic qualifications. In fact, although the numbers of students taking the exams has risen from 575,000 in 1998 to 656,000 in 2007, the number failing to get five good grades has fallen from 72,000 to 65,600 over the same period. Moreover, the figure for 2007 falls to 53,880 when the results are included for students who do their exams a little later than others (at the end of Key Stage 4). At the time of the 1997 election, contrary to what the Observer said in its leader, Labour did set a target to cut the numbers of pupils leaving education with no passes: their numbers have fallen from 44,291 in 1997 to 7,140 in 2007.
With changes introduced in the last year - and which were never part of the tables when the Tories were in power - Labour is now looking at the figures including English and Maths GCSEs, and that is forcing schools to work at getting better results in both subjects. That is likely to see that figure increasing too in the future. But do the Tories really need to discount the hard work over the last decade of teachers and pupils to explain how they would supposedly do better?
Saturday, 19 April 2008
But all this was to no avail because of the row over the 10p tax rate back home. The PM's briefers say that Brown is furious about the fuss. However, those who are complaining about the change do have one particularly strong point: why should the low paid who are working face a cut in their take-home pay in order to provide tax cuts for those who are better off and (presumably) to subsidise benefits for those who can't be bothered to get a job? And there are many who don't get tax credits. That's why Frank Field is so incensed about all this, and the Treasury does need to find a way to address his concerns - it should be in the business of incentivising work and disincentivising those who can work but won't do so.
The best way to do this would be to lift the threshold below which no taxes are paid, but clearly that is not affordable at the moment - something Dodgy Dave refuses to recognise in his opportunism, where he has not told us how he would pay for his restoration of the 10p tax rate (which Tories who know better rightly think is daft). In its absence, the Treasury does need to find a temporary fix to the problem. The MPs who are protesting this time are not the usual suspects opposing progressive change, though it is odd some are only doing so now. But they have a good point. And it needs to be answered by a commitment to measures that show the government wants to make work pay, not just for those with children, but for everyone.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
It's always good to be reminded what Cameron's Tories really believe.
‘If we’d have proposed cutting Scotland loose five years ago, we would have been accused of leaving it to the wolves,’ one shadow minister told me. ‘Salmond is stupid enough to see this as emancipation, so let’s do it.’ He added that his favoured policy was ‘lining the Tweed with explosives and floating Scotland off towards Iceland’ — but that fiscal autonomy was ‘the next best thing’.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
COURIC: There were 20,000 British troops at the time of the invasion, now there are only 2,000. You had planned to reduce that number but earlier this month you
decided to put that on hold. Why?
Of course, that is inaccurate. Which is why in the clip that was broadcast, she is heard asking:
There were 43,000 British troops at the time of the invasion. And now there are only 4,000 in Basra. You had planned to reduce that number to 2,500. But earlier this month, you decided to put that on hold. Why?
On this occasion, it doesn't really change the nature of the question, even it stops Couric sounding silly. But, when a similar incident happened here, there was an outcry, and 'noddies' as well as re-edited questions were banned by some channels. Yet in fact-check rich America, it's apparently OK to alter the question after the event. To be fair, we only know this because CBS put the whole unedited transcript on their website. That is something we could copy more routinely here for recorded interviews.
Monday, 14 April 2008
Saturday, 12 April 2008
So, is it really curtains for Gordon? Probably not. For one thing, Boris Johnson seems to have peaked in the London Mayoral polls, and after a serious wobble, Ken Livingstone has now got a better than evens chance of winning, once Green and LibDem transfers are counted in (and Ken must do everything he can to win the latter); if Labour holds London, it will be a serious blow to David Cameron and be as valuable to Labour as the Tories holding Wandsworth was in 1990. Second, though the economy is feeling the heat of the global and banking crisis, its fundamentals remain strong. Employment remains high and unemployment low; inflation is still manageable. And third, there is still not yet a credible alternative government. Cameron may be personable enough and be a better character on American Idol, if the opportunity presents itself. But his party remains either policy-lite or policy-disfunctional (as with its anti-patient health policy driven by someone whom Cameron has promised not to sack). And when these policies face proper scrutiny, the parties will be more evenly matched. But that's not to say it is not serious.
Brown has wasted months of disorganised leadership in Number 10 (now finally in better shape) and pandering to a never-satisfied backbench left-wing (and some of his ministers still seem to think they, rather than the electorate, should be their main audience). Gordon must now set a small number of clear, attainable and potentially popular goals across government and see them being delivered. If he does that - and holds London - the picture could be very different six months hence.
Democrats rarely have to worry about the urban centers or the college towns falling into line. Clinton's core constituency, by contrast, is a group that Democrats must win but frequently don't. Working-class whites, despite their historical ties to the Democratic Party, have shown time and again that they will defect if they don't like the nominee.....Ever since he launched his campaign in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Obama has been happy to have himself compared with the original skinny outsider from Illinois. But as this race goes on, the image of another Illinois icon looms. The shape of the Pennsylvania electorate, and the prospect of a contentious convention, evokes 1952, when Adlai Stevenson--the darling of "every thinking person," as one woman later famously phrased it--captured a fiercely contested nomination by putting the urban and the urbane blocs together. But he never won over the white working class, and that's why there never was a President Stevenson.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
The NUT might be on stronger ground were they calling for smaller infant class sizes, though ....studies....suggest that further real benefits for this age group require classes of below 15. But the biggest problem with the NUT ultimatum is that it wants the Government, rather than head teachers, to micro-manage schools. It was, after all, schools and their leaders who decided to use the extra money they got from government to employ more support staff.
And it is schools that occasionally opt to use classes of 70 to teach in different ways. Contrary to the more excitable headlines, such classes are usually well-run and are used to enrich students' learning experiences rather than to save money. One such class that I saw in an excellent West Midlands school used a large classroom with computers to set a range of challenges to a mixed age-group; it stretched able students and it allowed very personalised learning, regulated by a teacher supported by a host of teaching assistants. There was no evidence that pupils – or teachers – were losing out; in fact, quite the contrary.
Of course, such classes are not for all – or even most – situations. But they can play a part in a rich teaching and learning programme, just as masterclasses or lectures from university dons may mix several classes together. And the possibilities of broadband technology allow distance learning to widen A-level choices across groups of more than 20 students.
The point is not that these should become standard practice, but that they should not be outlawed in favour of a measure for which there is little beneficial evidence. What matters most is to enable every student to maximise their potential. And for that to happen, head teachers should have the freedom to try approaches that work best for their schools.
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Monday, 7 April 2008
The Tories also want to stop good schools 'having' to take excluded pupils; in fact, the best schools are often very good at dealing with excluded pupils in small numbers, and they should play their part with other heads in deciding what happens to excluded pupils, whether to use pupil referral units or other placements. And for that to work, the money must follow the pupil: to suggest otherwise, as the Tories do by saying schools would not be 'penalised' is confused (the only 'penalty' imposed has been to ensure that money does indeed follow the pupil, so a school would forfeit some money for a pupil no longer on its books).
Discipline is usually worst in the poor performing schools; one reason it is so is that they are expected to take a disproportionate number of excluded pupils. PRUs have improved since 1997, and there are far more places in them; but the government should also look at more permanent special school placements for those with the most severe beahavioural problems, for whom no mainstream schools may be appropriate. But today's recycled and ill-thought through policies from the Conservatives are a pretty poor substitute for a coherent school discipline policy, and show no sign of having moved on from Michael Howard's brilliant strategy on the subject at the last election.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Friday, 4 April 2008
Thursday, 3 April 2008
....the next primary is on 22 April in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, demographically ideal Clinton country and where polls currently have her 16 points ahead. Should she falter in Pennsylvania, she will be finished - but a strong showing might have a significant effect on how the super-delegates view her ability to win the big, all-important states that matter so much in the general election in November. The alarming news for Obama, in fact, assuming Clinton takes Pennsylvania, is that no candidate in modern times has ever gone on to win the presidency without first being victorious in the primaries or caucuses of at least one of the nation's biggest seven states, which Obama will have failed to do.
The problem with turning the issue into a cause celebre is that it alienates many of the good school leaders that this government needs if it is to tackle failing schools and pioneer personalisation. After all, the reason why we established the Office of Schools Adjudicator was to take the heat out of admissions disputes (which were often a proxy in those days for local authority distaste for independent-minded heads), while providing a legally enforceable remedy for breaches of the rules (and it is a myth that legal enforceability only came with the new Code; have a look at the Adjudicator's many rulings on his website if you doubt this). With further proactive powers now being given to the Adjudicator, the schools secretary and his ministers would be wise to let him and his team get on with their job, and then to show the same zeal for improving the 638 low-attaining secondaries highlighted by Gordon Brown last year.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Clinton's states have 132,214,460 people (160,537,525 if you include Florida and Michigan), and Obama's states have 101,689,480 people. States with 39,394,152 people have yet to vote. In percentage terms this means Clinton's states have 44 percent of the nation's population (53 percent if you include Florida and Michigan) and Obama's states have 34 percent of the nation's population. The yet-to-vote states have 13 percent of the nation's population.So long as there are no more Bosnia-style gaffes, those are some more very good reasons for super-delegates to vote for Clinton. Do read it in full.
*UPDATE: Danny Finkelstein provides the proof at Comment Central.