Former schools chief attacks ‘reactionary’ teachers for pulling children off GCSE courses to boost league positions

Schools have been accused of pulling children off GCSE courses “overnight” in a desperate attempt to boost league table positions. Jon Coles, a former top civil servant in the Department for Education, said that teachers were often “seriously over-responsive” to the demands of official rankings and failing to prioritise pupils’ needs. This is from the Telegraph…

In a speech, he told how thousands of pupils were suddenly transferred from existing GCSEs to different courses in response to new-style tables that rate schools on the proportion of pupils studying traditional subjects.

The comments come amid concerns that teachers are being put under growing pressure to cheat the exams system.

A study earlier this year found evidence of teachers manipulating test scores, re-writing pupils’ homework and helping them complete coursework projects to boost results and hit targets.

Figures from the Association of School and College Leaders showed that a third of teachers admitted using tactics that could undermine their “integrity”.

Jon Coles, former director general for education standards at the DfE, highlighted concerns over the introduction of the English Baccalaureate in 2010.

This is a new performance measure – added to league tables – that rates schools by the proportion of pupils gaining C grades in English, maths, science, foreign languages and either history or geography.

Speaking at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference, he said its introduction in autumn 2010 led to schools withdrawing pupils “overnight” from GCSE course they had already started to move onto subjects counted as part of the “EBacc”.

“The Government, when it announced the EBacc as a new measure in the performance tables, made it absolutely clear that it would not be an accountability measure, it would simply be a column in the performance tables,” he said.

“But right across the country, schools changed their [GCSE] curricula overnight. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.

“Children were moved from a course they had started on to a different course in order to improve performance on this EBacc measure.”

Mr Coles, who was at the DfE when the EBacc was introduced, warned that this was a sign of a lack of confidence in the state education system.

More at: Former schools chief attacks ‘reactionary’ teachers

Last month, examiners insisted that the introduction of the EBacc had already had an impact on schools, with improving entry trends for history, geography, the sciences and languages. But the biggest impact will not be felt until 2013.


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