Curriculum & Assessmement Reforms

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  • Key aspects of the GCSE & A-Level reform
    • Curriculum & Assessment Reforms
      • Curriculum Reform
        • Shifted away from schools being viewed as central service hubs to acquiring knowledge within rigorous subject disciplines
          • The Gove future of education
            • Future 1
              • The approach of Michael Gove, the Conservative party Secretary of State in the Coalition government, lays down the knowledge pupils are expected to know and schools to ‘transmit’, and it can be understood as a version of what we refer to as Future 1. It treats access to knowledge as the core purpose of the curriculum and assumes that the range of subjects and the boundaries that de?ne that knowledge are largely given.
              • One example of a Future 1 approach to the curriculum is Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy, which attempts to make explicit ‘what every child should know’ (Hirsch 1988)
                • Gove’s version of Future 1 is trapped in its own elitist past and is no basis for a future curriculum. With its ‘given’ concept of subject knowledge, Future 1 began to lose credibility after the Second World War because it was unable to respond either to the political demands for expanding access, or to the new knowledge which was being produced that would be the potential engine of a future economy (Young, 2011)
        • 'A knowledge-based curriculum as the cornerstone of an excellent, academically rigorous education' (DFE, Educational Excellence Everywhere, 2016)
          • '...the working-class student was locked out of powerful knowledge' (Wheelahan, 2007)
            • This has been evidenced in the route to education through vocational assessment - whereby there is less cognitive challenges for the individual (Beck, 2012)
              • This perhaps is the outcome from the introduced league tables system, which measure 'attainment on the 5 core GCSEs' (Conservative 1990)
                • Gove argued this and said that this incentivised schools to push their students towards qualifications that were easier to pass. E.g. 'Performing Engineering operations required very little effort for one to pass & be deemed a statistical success' (Gove, 2009)
                  • These claims made by Gove in 2009 have been found to not hold substance in the sense that he is in fact 'creating straw men' to push his own ideology of education (as noted in Higgins, 2011)
                    • Neoconservative ideology whereby one's culture informs and is the basis for their education - similar to the idea of Bernstein called state-managed ‘centring resources’ to shape a ‘prospective neoconservative pedagogic identity’ among England’s children and future citizens (Bernstein 2000, 66)
            • The use of Wheelahan (2007) further reinstates the lack of forward thinking by Gove in 2015, as he relied on research conducted in Australia, who whilst have a similar education profile to England, have a different cultural background
            • VET (Vocational Education & Training) analysis conducted on the labour markets in both England & Australia are very weak, as most VET graduates do not work in jobs directly related to their qualification (Wheelahan, 2015)
              • The occupations that VET graduates are prepared for are in fact of a lower status and are often lower skilled (Keep, 2013), with the exception for traditional tradesmen roles.
                • The curriculum is narrowly focused and re?ects a narrow and behaviourist conception of work based on workplace tasks and roles, rather than occupations (Wheelahan & Moodie, 2011). The consequence is that VET is ‘seen as a siding into which weaker pupils can conveniently be shunted’ (Bosch & Charest, 2008, p. 445).
                  • This analysis shows how education systems are markedly influenced by their broader socio-economic systems, and how they reflect the nature of those societies
                    • Northern European societies have lower social inequality, stronger welfare states and strong public education systems (Hall & Soskice, 2001). Compared to other OECD countries, they invest a higher than average percentage of public funding in education, while Anglophone countries invest a lower than average percentage (OECD, 2014a, p. 246).
                      • One of the international ‘star performers’, Finland, has one of the highest performances on international tests of academic achievement such as PISA, but also one of the lowest gaps between the most disadvantaged and advantaged students (Reay, 2012).
                        • The reason for this has to be found in the broader structure of society, its relatively low level of social inequality, its public investment in a public education system (it has very few private schools) and the emphasis it places on achievement for all students (Reay, 2012). Reay (2012) argues that Finland is the closest example of a socially just education system that we can ?nd.
          • Vocational-based subjects which promise easier routes to a pass mark are growing in popularity (Gove, 2009)
            • David Laws - "issues regarding education reform are not based on evidence, but on a hunch, as politicians & the education minister are prone to decision-making based on ideology & previous experiences.
              • This rang true, as in late 2014 he was subsequently fired from his role as education minister by David Cameron for his non-effective execution of the education reforms, and his toxicity as a Conservative MP (Brown, 2016)
                • Academy schools have not advanced educational standards(Bousted, 2017)
                  • Laws' own Education Policy Institute, revealed that at secondary level, nine of the worst performing school groups in England are multi-academy-trusts (School performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities, EPI, July 2016)
            • These claims made by Gove in 2009 have been found to not hold substance in the sense that he is in fact 'creating straw men' to push his own ideology of education (as noted in Higgins, 2011)
              • Neoconservative ideology whereby one's culture informs and is the basis for their education - similar to the idea of Bernstein called state-managed ‘centring resources’ to shape a ‘prospective neoconservative pedagogic identity’ among England’s children and future citizens (Bernstein 2000, 66)
        • September 2015
          • New GCSE curriculum & assessment for phase 1 subjects (English & Maths) - linear structure - June 2017 9-1 grading
          • A-Levels & AS decoupled; linear structure (end of 2 years) for phase 1 subjects
          • September 2016: same reforms rolled out for phase 2 subjects
        • Introduction of the EBACC - a qualification aimed at educating the individual across a range of subjects
      • Forms of knowledge differentiation and their implications
        • Vygotsky
          • The role of schooling was to enable pupils to engage with ‘theoretical’ concepts that they would not have access to in their non-school lives. If the differences between the two kinds of concepts are dismissed or blurred, it becomes increasingly difficult to make reliable decisions about what to include and exclude in the curriculum or indeed to say what formal education is for.
        • Bernstein
          • Bernstein describes as the classification of educational knowledge (or the curriculum). A theory of knowledge differentiation presupposes that domain differences are not arbitrary but in some degree are the product of what the French philosopher Bachelard refers to as the historical processes of ‘rectification and critique’ (Young, 2009a). An understanding of the extent to which domain differences such as those between disciplines and between school subjects have an epistemological or pedagogic basis and are not arbitrary and based on convention is crucial to debates about how the curriculum should be organised.
        • Durkheim
          • Durkheim’s social theory of knowledge, the idea of a curriculum and indeed schooling itself makes little sense except as an institution for child minding, something not far removed from Foucault’s view in his influential book Discipline and Punish (Foucault, 1991)
    • Subject knowledge placed at the heart of the curriculum
      • Furedi - subject specific knowledge provides an intellectual framework, through which children can make intra-subject connections if they have a firm grounding in their core studies (2009, 153)
    • Linear exam structure with a terminal exam replacing coursework
    • New grading system for GCSEs
      • The 9-1 GCSE grading system has also come under scrutiny for the following:
        • Information provided by exam boards relating to a Grade 4 or 5 have been inadequate
          • Progress is harder to measure under the new system, as multiple discrepancies exist between each Grade number
        • Workload under the new 9-1 system has increased to the point where not enough time exists during the school week, even with supplementary classes to finish the English syllabus (ATL poll respondent, 2017)
          • Mathematical Association found that more than of the Math departments interviewed reported a 10% in applicants wanting to study A-Level Maths in September 2017 compared to 2016
            • ATL also investigated these claims and found that English at the sixth forms investigated by the Mathematical Association saw a downturn of 35% of applicants wanting to study A-Level English in September 2017 to 2016
    • Decoupling of A & AS levels

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