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Chris McGovern: New tricks from the Blob – crazy ways of measuring performance


Can things get any better in the wonderful world of education? Already we know from Ofsted that schools are on a yellow brick road towards ever greater improvement provided, of course, that you are not white working class and do not live among the ‘in-breds’ on the Isle of Wight.

At the age of 15 our pupils are only three years behind their peers in the Asia-Pacific and over two-thirds of them can read and write at a basic level when they leave school. True, employers may find that 20 per cent are unemployable but our kids are ‘right-on’ when it comes to the issues that matters in life – gender discrimination and non-binary awareness, racial stereotyping, ‘safe spaces’, the equality of all cultures and beliefs except for those associated with the inherently inferior white English, and so on and so on.

What is more, there is a university place for any youngster that wishes to go and for more or less whatever they wish to study – even a degree course in heavy metal music. As an added bonus you can win an iPad or free gym membership or even a bit of cash for recommending that a friend takes up a place, too. And no need to worry about the overall cost. Loans of up to £50,000 are available to all and will be written off if you do not earn enough. Just how great is all of that?

The good news keeps on rolling in. We have heard criticism that public exams are getting easier and that grade inflation has become endemic. This has now come to a stop. This year’s pass rate at A-Level is a mere 98.1 per cent which, more or less, fixes the inflation problem. Clever! Ditto GCSE – only two thirds of candidates now pass at the higher A* to C grades. All the others ‘pass’, of course, but at the lower grades.

And for those who have been asking for a restoration of grammar schools there is encouraging. news, too. A further annex or two may be in the pipeline if we believe in the “open mind” of the Prime Minister and of her Education Secretary.

All is for the best in the best of all possible educational worlds. Ours is, indeed,  becoming an education system made in heaven. “The most perfect the wit of man could devise,” as the Duke of Wellington commented in another context.

And, yet, there is more good news to come. “Reveal yourself – “Progress 8”! From this year, every GCSE grade will be awarded points and via a labyrinthine formula, Byzantine in its complex ingenuity and brilliance, we will know what progress pupils make between the ages of 11 and 16.

In simple terms it works some thing like this: “Think of a number. Double it. Take these GCSE grades which have been converted into points and add them together: an 8, two fives, two 6s, a 4, a 3 and a 1. Share them between three baskets and double-weight the answer in the first basket before adding them all together. Divide by 10. Now, add together Key Stage 2 (11 year-olds’) SATs scores and divide the answer by 6 and round to one decimal place. Work out the difference between your two answers and take away the number you first thought of.  Please note that for GCSE grade conversion to points purposes, the top GCSE grade will be worth 8 points in 2016 but 8.5 in 2017 and 2018 in some subjects, but 9 for others.”

Is all of this nonsense a parody? Well, yes, but only partly. The real thing is even more wonderfully complex and all built on the flimsy evidence of SATs tests at 11 which secondary schools are, in any case, inclined to throw straight into the bin before re-testing the children . Don’t believe me? Well, here is proof that truth can be stranger than fiction. Behold, a simplified explanation for teachers provided by The Times Educational Supplement.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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