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EDUCATION SECRETARY SAYS STILL MORE TO DO AS FIGURES SHOW SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS SINCE 1997

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Education and skills secretary Estelle Morris today pledged extra...
Education and skills secretary Estelle Morris today pledged extra

investment and radical reform of schools as figures show significant

improvements in primary and secondary schools since 1997.

She congratulated pupils, teachers and schools throughout the country

for their achievements but said that more needed to be done if

Britain's education system was to become truly world class.

In July the government pledged an extra£12.8bn for education

over the next three years.

Latest statistics out today show that:

- in over two-thirds of local education authorities results for 14

year olds have increased since last year and all authorities have

improved the results of 11 year olds since the introduction of the

literacy and numeracy strategies;

- the government has exceeded its target of 50% of children achieving

5 good GCSE passes; and

- the number of children who leave school without qualifications has

decreased for the seventh year running. Now nearly 95% leave school

with a qualification.

Across the country, local authorities, many in tough areas, have made

significant progress. In urban areas the Excellence in Cities (EiC)

programme has led to a dramatic rise in standards, with nearly 80 per

cent of EiC areas reporting improved GCSE results in 2002. Other

improvements include:

- Liverpool where the number of 11 year olds reaching level 4 of the

National Curriculum in Maths has increased by 19% since 1998;

- Birmingham where results for 14 year olds have seen a 7% rise

overall in English, Maths and Science since last year;

- Nottingham where the number of 11 year olds reaching level 4 or

above in English has increased by 15% since 1998; and

- London where all Inner London boroughs have improved results for 14

year olds since last year

Estelle Morris said:

'I want to put on record today my thanks to all the schools, teachers

and pupils who have contributed to the unrivalled improvements in

education since 1997. Much has been achieved but there still is much

to do if our education system is to become truly world class.

'We have set tough targets and have made high demands. It has not

been easy but schools are rising to the challenge and standards are

improving across the board.

'The government's commitment to tackling underachievement is making

real progress but there is still much to be done. The Excellence in

Cities programme has seen standards rise much faster in deprived

areas than elsewhere. Even schools facing the toughest challenges can

succeed.

'In primary schools the national literacy and numeracy strategies

have made a dramatic impact on primary standards, but boys are still

lagging behind girls in reading and writing and a number of schools

are still under-performing. Over the next year we will be targeting

extra support at boys and at the schools that need it most.

'It is essential that we capitalise on the gains made at primary

schools and improve standards in the early years of secondary

education. Currently one in three pupils are not making the gains

expected of them at 14. Every year of secondary school counts - not

just the exam years. Evidence shows that only half of the pupils who

reach level 5 at this age go on to achieve five good GCSEs but almost

all (94%) of those who achieve level 6 do so.

'A national strategy for Key Stage 3 was introduced in schools last

September and it is beginning to have an effect, but it is still

early days. It gives teachers the support needed to transform

teaching and learning in all the core subjects and ultimately across

the whole curriculum. It also focuses resources on pupils at greatest

risk of underachieving by providing catch-up programmes for the first

year of secondary school, mentoring and booster classes. The strategy

builds on the achievements made at primary schools and prepares

children for the variety of options open to them at 14.

'We have exceeded an important milestone today. Over half of all

school children are now gaining five good GCSE passes and for the 7th

year running fewer children are leaving school with no

qualifications. We have set tough targets to ensure that this

progress is maintained and extended over the next two years.

'We have laid solid foundations and I am confident that we will

continue to reap the benefits of this investment in future years. All

the results announced today reflect the hard work of pupils and the

first class support of teachers. With continued effort we will see

the results of our 14 year olds matching the advances we have already

seen in primary schools and at GCSE.'

NOTES

This Press Notice applies to England.

1. The Statistical First Release on the Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 LEA

Level test results is available on the DfES website.

2. By 2004 the government has set a target of 85% of 11-year olds

achieving level 4 (the standard expected for their age) in English

and maths.

3. By 2004, the government has set a milestone of 75% of 14-year-olds

achieving level 5 (the standard expected for their age) in English,

maths and ICT and 70% in science. By 2007, 85% will achieve level 5

in English, maths and ICT and 80% in science.

4. The Middle Years (Key Stage 3) strategy aims to raise standards

for all 11-to 14-year olds by spreading effective teaching and

learning to every classroom and is part of the government's wider

plans to transform secondary education The strategy sets high

expectations and challenging targets. It aims to improve the quality

of teaching and learning in the classroom by investing in teachers'

professional development. The strategy is not statutory but is

founded on, and develops, teachers' own good practice

5. The government is supporting expenditure of around£500m on the

Key Stage 3 Strategy to 2003-04.

6. Between 2002 and 2006 the government aims to increase the

proportion of those aged 16 who get qualifications equivalent to 5

GCSEs at Grade A* to C by 2 percentage points each year on average

and for all schools at least 20% of pupils achieve this standard by

2004 rising to 25% by 2006.

7. More than£500m has already been invested in EiC since

1999.

8. Excellence in Cities strands include:

- specially-trained Learning Mentors in every secondary school and

many primaries, who work with pupils to remove barriers to learning

and reduce disaffection;

- City Learning Centres, equipped with cutting-edge technology that

can be used by local schools and the community;

- extra opportunities for gifted and talented pupils through summer

schools, more challenging everyday lessons and out-of-school

provision;

- self-contained Learning Support Units to give challenging pupils

intensive help and support without disrupting the education of

their classmates; and

- more specialist and beacon schools.

SPEECH BY SCHOOL STANDARDS MINISTER DAVID MILIBAND TO QCA ANNUAL

CONFERENCE

In a speech to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's annual

conference this week, David Miliband, school standards minister said:

'Let me start with the unexpected: some good news. Our education

system is on the way up. Investment is growing, significantly;

standards of teaching are improving, remorselessly; recruitment

numbers, of teachers and other professionals, are rising, steadily;

and according to the data, national and international, standards of

student achievement are rising too, across the schooling system, year

on year.

The inputs are improving; we should expect outputs to improve; and

they are.

The next few years pose a special challenge - to move from catching

up with the rest of the world, as we have by cutting class sizes,

raising teacher salaries, improving pedagogy, to moving ahead and

giving our young people the best possible chance of making their way

in the world and contributing to economic and social renewal in this

country. We know the unique opportunity: between 1996/7 and 2005/6

recurrent investment in schooling will rise by over£1,100 per pupil

per year in real terms; and in buildings and ICT from£600m to

almost£5bn per annum. As minister for school standards, I know

this opportunity places special responsibility on government.

We have a responsibility to be an 'enabling government', clear about

the role of the Department for Education and Skills, devoted above

all to building capacity at local level for school improvement, as

funds and power are devolved to the frontline. We are the Department

for promoting high quality education and skills, not running every

part of the education system.

'We have responsibility to be coherent and consistent in our

priorities. For the next three years we have set out four areas that

will be the focus of our attention as far as schools are concerned. I

know that colleagues in FE are working for similar clarity. We will

focus on first, the promotion of strong leadership in schools. This

is not just about heads, but also includes senior management teams.

Second, the development of a distinct identity for every school but

also active local collaboration with other schools by every school.

Third, the remodelling of the school workforce to tackle teacher

workload and raise standards. And fourth the promotion of

partnerships beyond the classroom to support teaching and learning in

the classroom.

We have responsibility too to ensure that the infrastructure for the

governance of education, including the examination and testing

system, works smoothly; for obvious reasons this is our focus today.

The last few weeks have been difficult. Many students and teachers

feel that their achievements have not been properly recognized. Many

of you - from Examining Boards or from the QCA - feel that your

integrity has been questioned. Many parents are wondering about the

fundamentals of the system.

It is important that today I put on record the government's position.

I want to address my remarks to three different audiences: students

and teachers, examiners and the wider public. But to each and every

group there is one message that should be heard loud and clear. We in

Government are determined to get to the bottom of what has happened

this year, and learn the lessons for future years, so that we do

everything within our power to ensure no such problems ever happen

again. Because we are increasingly confident in the teaching and

learning in our schools and colleges, because we want to celebrate

the genuinely improved performance of our young people, we want to

reflect achievement and be seen to do so.

Immediate Action - Students come First

The students and teachers must come first. They have acted with great

responsibility over the last few weeks - passionate about their case,

tenacious in their arguments, but sensible about due process. The

NAHT, the SHA and the HMC deserve our thanks, and I am happy publicly

to acknowledge their role today. I am delighted that they are fully

supportive of the re-grading arrangements.

'The re-grading exercise is focused on units where grade boundaries

were shifted by more than the historic long run average, and where

the Chief Examiners did not concur with the Chief Executive's

decision. Thanks to the cooperation of all the awarding bodies, any

revised grades for individual AS and A2 units should be available

next Tuesday; for some candidates, the change of grade in one unit

could change their overall grade; and for some of them the change of

grade in one subject may lead to a revision of their offer of a

university place.

We have been working with UCAS and with the universities and colleges

to ensure that we do everything possible to help students who are

affected by the regrading. I am very grateful to them for the help

they have given us.

UCAS will be sending letters with advice to any student whose grade

changes. Students will also be able to get their results from their

schools or colleges. The UCAS advice will set out a timescale for

students to get in touch with universities if they do want to

transfer.

Universities and colleges have made it clear that they will honour

offers of places which have been made and that they will look

sympathetically at every case. This may mean places being made

available next year, where courses are already full for this year.

Universities and colleges will also ensure that they deal effectively

with any financial issues for students.

We have made it clear to universities and colleges that they will not

suffer financially as a result of student movement arising from the A

level regrading. We will consider with them any implications for next

year's recruitment when we know how many students are involved.

So much for the mechanics of this year's rescue operation. Let me

move on to the future, and the role of exam boards, the QCA and the

Government.

Short-term Action - A Sound System

The first stage of the Tomlinson Review absolved teachers of any

blame for the current problems. One other group deserve mention. I am

talking about examiners, the people who mark the papers and without

whom there really would be chaos.

The Tomlinson report made a clear distinction between remarking and

regrading. The examination system in this country does place a large

burden on external examiners. There are issues for the future about

the balance of internal and external assessment, and the Government

is open to this debate. We must also ensure that the quality of

marking is consistently high across the system. But for now examiners

need to know that we in Government value and respect their hard work

and honest effort; this year's problems have shown how vital their

role is and how determined they are to see genuine achievement

recognised. There are no exams without examiners, so thank you to the

40,000 people who examined this summer.

Our task in the weeks ahead, in the run-up to the publication of the

second phase of the Tomlinson Review, and then in its aftermath, is

to ensure that every aspect of the exams system commands the

confidence of students, teachers and the general public.

Let me tell you how I see it. The Tomlinson Review concluded that

no-one had acted in an improper way, but that significant problems

had arisen. For some, this seemed like a contradiction. For me, it

pointed to something else: the difference between professionals

acting within the boundaries of their own Code, and the extent to

which professionals have been able to satisfy the demands of the

wider community that justice be done and be seen to be done.

Why do I say this? Society is very different from twenty or thirty

years ago, in many ways for the better. Partly as a result of the

growth in education and the expansion of higher education, citizens

are far more demanding and less deferential. People expect and demand

transparency and openness. Authority no longer comes from status but

from actions; respect from what is seen to be done, not who does it.

'This means that the exam system can no longer be a black box in

which professionals do what they believe to be right, and everyone

else is expected to accept what they are doing because they are

professionals. If any proof of our changed times were needed, it came

on the day Mike Tomlinson issued his report. Immediately, the BBC

Education website launched an online 'talkback' section titled 'Will

we trust the re-grades?' That is the new environment. Deference is

over. Our challenge is to harness the new assertiveness as a positive

force.

That is why, over two years ago, Ministers decided that students

should have access to their marked exam scripts. But until now the

grading process has not been transparent. This will be central to the

second stage of Mike Tomlinson's enquiries. The key principle for the

Government is that the exam system matches public expectations of

integrity, fairness, objectivity and consistency. The foundation is

the continued political independence of the system. But we also need

to consider:

- how to achieve consistency across the system, with all grades

accurate, valid and fair

- how to balance the recommendations of examiners with the

statistical evidence of comparabilities between years, to maintain

standards over time

- how to ensure QCA fulfils its key role as a regulator, commanding

confidence and trust; in this the depth, expertise and experience

of Ken Boston, as well as his fresh eye, is a real asset, and I am

glad he is starting today to put in place immediately new

arrangements to move the system forward

- and we also face a challenge to ensure that not only is the process

independent of Ministers, but is seen to be so.

We approach this debate with humility and determination. The second

stage of the Tomlinson Review is a unique opportunity, and we want to

make as much progress as possible on the basis of its

recommendations.

The Medium Term - More does not mean Worse

Let me, thirdly, address a wider constituency. In his report Mike

Tomlinson says that there is a fundamental confusion running through

the whole debate about our examinations system. It concerns the

difference between 'maintaining a standard' and maintaining 'the

proportion of students meeting the standard'.

Or as Edward Gould, Chairman of the HMC put it a couple of weeks ago:

'Parity of standards is important but, again, this should not be

linked to parity of results. The maintenance of standards over time

must not be confused with the crude and mechanistic maintenance of

statistics.'

Over the years there have been claims that exams have been getting

easier. QCA set up an international and completely independent panel

to look at the question. They did not find evidence of grade

inflation. The Panel recommended that QCA should put in place a

series of comparative studies to ensure that standards are

maintained. The Government takes this seriously and is committed to a

rigorous, world class system of tests and examinations.

But I am also concerned about the English curse, raised every year in

August, that 'more will mean worse'. Kingsley Amis coined the phrase

in July 1960, out of antipathy to the expansion of higher education

and the development of the polytechnics. It is important to

understand what is being alleged, and what are the facts.

Public tests and examinations show a clear pattern:

- The percentage of 11 year olds reaching the expected standard of

literacy has increased from 63% to 75% since 1997 and in numeracy

from 62% to 73% in the same period.

- The percentage getting five good GCSEs has gone from 36.8% ten

years ago to 50% today.

- The proportion of young people gaining 2 or more A levels increased

by more than half between 1991 and 200, from 22% to 34%.

There are two main, alternative explanations for this: first that

standards of teaching and learning are improving, and second that

tests and exams are getting easier. Let me explain how I see it.

The Government is determined to raise standards of teaching and

learning. Let me repeat: raise standards of teaching and learning.

For moral reasons to do with the fulfilment of human potential, and

practical reasons to do with the economic needs of the nation, we

have a vested interest in improving the inputs to the educational

process. It is what education policy is all about.

'The evidence, to which I have alluded, is that standards of teaching

and learning are rising. Ofsted inspections show that continuing

picture of improvement:

- Nearly 7 in 10 classes are now good, compared to 4 in 10 five years

ago; a quarter of lessons judged very good or better, compared

with fewer than 1 in 10 five years earlier.

- Results are improving: over 9 out of 10 schools have made

satisfactory or better improvement since their last inspection

- The number of schools reported as being put into special measures

in the Chief Inspector's Annual Report was 137 schools, compared

with 230 in the previous year.

This is what I mean by rising standards of teaching and learning. But

when it comes to what in shorthand is called 'exam standards', we all

need to be in the business of maintaining the standard required to

get a certain grade, not changing it. Students deserve proper and

consistent recognition for their achievements. A student who does not

reach the standard should not be awarded the grade. But if more

students do meet the standard they all have a moral right to the

correct and appropriate award.

Exams should be fundamentally criterion-referenced; the criteria

should be clear and public; and if more people pass, that should be a

cause for celebration. Those who argue against this, those who say

only the same fixed percentage of students should receive each grade

each year, are placing a block on talent and ambition, and imposing a

glass ceiling on student life chances.

We for our part reaffirm our confidence in teachers and young people,

working smarter, working harder, to achieve higher. That is a good

thing for them; it is a good thing for the country; and we do no one

any service by knocking their progress on the basis of hearsay and

prejudice.

Longer-term Action - 14-19 Reform

Let me conclude by putting this debate about marking and grading of A

levels into a wider context. Every country in the industrialized

world is looking at its system for 14-19 provision. We are no

exception. Our historic weaknesses are clear: a weak offer for those

who want to pursue a vocational orientation to their studies, and a

narrow offer on the A level track. Vocational GCSEs in subjects like

engineering, and the expansion of modern apprenticeships are part of

the answer, as in the broader Advanced level curriculum, introduced

by the Curriculum 2000 reforms which Mike Tomlinson says is

overwhelmingly supported in schools and colleges.

The Green Paper published in February looked in the round at the

challenges at the 14-19 phase. I was delighted to find, when I came

into the department in June, that the consultation on the Green Paper

was one of the most thorough and thoughtful ever undertaken, with

young people as well as teachers and experts having their say.

Most significant was the enthusiasm, first, for more coherence across

the 14-19 age range, and second for renewed collaboration at local

level, across the divides between schools and colleges, and education

and work, to develop attractive and coherent programmes of study for

a wide range of young people. In our response to the consultation,

which will be published when we are sure that this year's problems

have been attended to, we will seek to address for the longer term

the exciting opportunities to promote excellence across the system,

for all young people, stretching them to develop and fulfill their

potential, whether they are focused on general or specialist study.

We will not provide a quick answer; but we will set a direction that

I believe can unite professionals and young people alike.

The balance between stability and change is important. I make this

pledge today. We will not shy away from discussing reform, but any

reform will be based on a real consultation, maximising consensus and

effective implementation, thereby ensuring the confidence and

security of teachers, parents and pupils.

Conclusion

Let me conclude. We want to recognise student achievement and to

celebrate the hard work both teachers and students put in to all

public examinations. We also want the examining and awarding system

to become more transparent so that the public has the confidence to

join with us in this celebration. And we want to ensure that our

long-term plans for a more inclusive, coherent and transparent 14+

system of education and training build on the achievements of young

people and the professionalism of their teachers.

It is important that we learn lessons from recent events and resolve,

with the whole education community, to go forward together. We in

Government are determined to learn the right lessons; we do so with

an open mind; andwe do so with the overriding purpose to ensure that

young people get the education system that their potential deserves.

I look forward to working with you in that vital task.'

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