Bet the unions won’t support changes like this to improve education

The UK is in a similar position to NZ in the latest PISA rankings in education.

While our teacher unions oppose every move to improve things the UK is busy implementing changes that evidence shows is helping. Like the publishing of League Tables, something that teacher union oppose the world over.

The Irish Times explores league tables:

What if official school league tables have been shown to improve the performance of schools and lessen educational inequality? What if school league tables are good for education?

Well three years ago a research paper with precisely those findings made waves across the water in the UK.

England and Wales have very similar education systems. Between 1992 and 2001, both English and Welsh systems published annual school performance tables, based on GCSE (Junior Cert level) exam results. But then, in 2001, the Welsh parliament voted to stop.

Here was a natural experiment between two identical systems, one of which now lacked a key component of accountability: the official school league table. Researchers at Bristol university, led by Prof Simon Burgess, decided to look at what happened next.

The result, according to their findings, was “systematic, significant and robust” evidence that abolishing school league tables reduced the academic effectiveness of Welsh schools

Results fell dramatically. Welsh GCSE performance levels fell by almost two grades per student, per year. That’s a student who would have managed a B in a subject scraping through with a D. The effect was spread across the different subjects, but two full grades worth of a decrease is a huge effect, even when spread across five or six exams.

Until 2001, the performance of students in England and Wales was very similar. After league tables were abolished the performance of Welsh students deteriorated. If , rather than abolishing the league tables, the Welsh authorities had opted to increase class sizes by one-third, this would have had a similar effect, according to the researchers. The drop in standards was also confirmed by the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Interestingly, this negative effect was concentrated in the bottom 75 per cent of schools. The top 25 per cent were unaffected by the abolition of league tables. Their results remained as high as ever and in line with their English counterparts. The abolition of the league tables had actually increased educational inequality.

So no league tables affects the poorest in society. Nice of the unions to care so little for those among us with the least.

There is no silver bullet, but we should be doing those things in education which produces the results that enable all students to succeed. The teacher unions though prefer in our ‘world class’ system that is dropping standards to leave a tail of 20% behind.


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  • ben

    Imagine if we had the courage to pursue some of this stuff!

    the quality of teaching

    to date

    • We have introduced scholarships worth up to
    £20,000 to attract the very best graduates into teaching in core subjects.

    • We have doubled the number of top graduates
    training to be teachers through Teach First.

    • We are training more specialist primary

    • We have set up ‘Teaching Schools’ – outstanding
    schools that will lead the training and professional development of teachers and
    head teachers.

    • We have set up School Direct which allows
    schools to train top graduates as teachers in the subjects and phases they

    • We have made it quicker and easier for heads to
    get rid of bad teachers.

    • All teacher trainees are now required to pass
    literacy and numeracy tests before they start training.


    • We will treble the number of top graduates
    training to be teachers through Teach First by 2014/15.

    • By the end of the Parliament, we expect that as
    many as 10,000 students a year could be trained by schools that are either
    offering School Direct places or are full providers of teacher training.

    • We are looking at reforming teachers’ pay so
    that strong performance is better recognised and high quality graduates are
    attracted to the profession.

    parents, teachers and charities set up Free Schools

    to date

    • We have allowed people to set up Free Schools
    thanks to legislation passed just months after we were elected.

    • We opened 24 Free Schools in September 2011 and
    a further 55 Free Schools opened in September 2012.


    • We have approved 114 Free Schools to open in
    September 2013 and beyond.

    • We will continue to invite groups to submit
    proposals for Free Schools – the next application round will open in December

    schools free by allowing them to become Academies

    to date

    • We passed the Academies Act 2010 to allow any
    existing school to convert to an Academy with the approval of the Education

    • We have turned 298 failing schools into
    Academies and we have allowed a further 1,808 schools to convert to Academy

    • Overall, we have so far opened more than 2,000
    Academies, compared to only 203 Academies opened by Labour.


    • We will convert more schools into Academies and
    we want Academy status to become the norm.


    to date

    • We have given teachers new powers to search
    pupils without consent.

    • We have given teachers the power to enforce
    same-day detentions by scrapping the 24-hour notice rule.

    • We have abolished the “no touch” rule.

    • We have increased fines on parents whose
    children play truant.

    • We have removed the right of appeals panels to
    force schools to take back expelled pupils.

    • We have given teachers anonymity until charge
    when faced with accusations by pupils to protect them from malicious


    • We are examining whether we can automatically
    recover fines for truancy from parents through child benefit.

    • We are looking at gradually lowering the
    threshold at which children are defined as ‘persistent truants’ to ensure
    schools take action at an earlier stage.

    the exams system

    to date

    • We have restored marks for spelling, punctuation
    and grammar at GCSE.

    • We have scrapped modules at GCSE.

    • Our English Baccalaureate is already encouraging
    many more young people to study the core academic subjects.

    • We have asked Ofqual and the exam boards to work
    with universities to develop new A-Levels.


    • Ofqual will bring forward new GCSEs in the core
    academic subjects of English, maths, the sciences, history and geography ready
    for teaching in 2015.

    • From September 2014, pupils will begin studying
    for new A-Levels developed by Ofqual and the exam boards with universities.

    a curriculum fit for the 21st Century

    to date

    • We have set out our plans to ensure we have a
    National Curriculum fit for the 21st Century.

    • Under our proposals, schools will have to teach
    children to: learn their 12 x 12 times tables by the age of 9, spell a set list
    of words by the end of primary school, and recite poetry or speak in a debate in


    • We will introduce a new, more rigorous primary
    school curriculum in September 2014.

    • We will make languages compulsory in primary
    school from September 2014.

    the gap between the rich and the poor

    to date

    • We have introduced a Pupil Premium – money given
    to schools to pay for dedicated support for disadvantaged children.

    • This year, the Pupil Premium is worth £619 for
    every child from a deprived background and every looked-after child. 1.8 million
    children are eligible.

    • We have introduced summer schools to support
    disadvantaged children in the transition from primary to secondary school.
    65,000 children benefited in 2012.


    • In 2013-14, the Pupil Premium will increase to
    £900 for every child from a deprived background and every looked-after

    • By the end of the Parliament, we will be
    investing £2.5 billion a year in the Pupil Premium.

    high quality vocational education

    to date

    • University Technical Colleges provide technical
    education to 14-19 year-olds that meets the needs of modern business and are
    sponsored by a local university and employers. Five UTCs are now open.

    • Studio Schools are aimed at young people who
    learn in more practical ways. They teach a rigorous academic and vocational
    curriculum in a practical way which includes experience in the workplace. They
    typically teach 300 students aged 14-19. 16 Studio Schools are now open.

    • We have introduced tough criteria so that only
    high-quality vocational qualifications count in school league tables. We have
    reduced the number of qualifications which are equivalent to GCSEs from more
    than 3,000 to 140, so that pupils, teachers and employers can have confidence in
    vocational qualifications once again.


    • We have approved 28 more UTCs to open from
    September 2013 and beyond.

    • We have approved 16 more Studio Schools to open
    from September 2013 and beyond.

    better provision for children with Special Educational Needs

    to date

    • We have set out a comprehensive plan to improve
    provision for children with Special Educational Needs. We set out our ideas in
    the SEN Green Paper and consulted widely on our proposals. We have announced
    that we will legislate for our proposals through the Children and Families


    • From 2014, we will replace statements and
    multiple assessments with a single birth to 25 assessment process and a combined
    Education, Health and Care Plan.

    • We will extend statutory protections for young
    people with SEN up to the age of 25 from 16 currently.

    • We will give parents a new legal right to buy-in
    specialist SEN and disabled care for their children.

    • We will require local authorities and other
    local services to communicate a clear ‘local offer’ for families, setting out
    what support is available and from whom.

    • We will give parents whose children have an
    Education, Health and Care plan the legal right to seek a place at any
    state-funded school of their choice – whether a maintained school, an academy, a
    Free School or a special school.

  • Patrick

    Just wait, the PPTA will be along shortly to explain that this “highly biased capitalist experiment with the backing of big business (or other bogeymen) was always destined to give this result as there was a preordained agenda. Here in NZ we are taking a much more holistic view of our childrens’ education outcomes. As long as those outcomes do not interfere with the Union’s aims we are all cool.”
    Or they could just admit the game is up, measuring things helps quantify the size of a problem, Charter Schools can help in certain cases & as a Union encouraging & rewarding better teachers leads to better outcomes for students. Wouldn’t that be refreshing, the private sector has only been doing it for 100 years or so.

  • In Vino Veritas

    The result is predictable. As predictable as the blame, denial and excuses that come from the Unions involved. The reaction is mirrored in this country, by Hipkins and the Union to the latest PISA report (a report I might add, that Labour and the Unions cherry pick from to support their arguments).
    Their reaction is just bloody depressing. And they purport to be “leaders”.

    • Karl

      IVV, maybe it was predictable to you. I think the result is much starker than I would have guessed.
      I can’t understand why the government haven’t been shouting about this study. Maybe they are concerned that we need to achieve the equivalent of 2 full GSCE grades improvement due to this single change?
      Hell, I’d settle for one grade improvement. That would be a massive boost to the kids’ prospects in life.

  • ratmuncher

    The kids measured are all aunty Helen’s kids. Buried under a great steaming pile of crank leftwing experiments and mad women’s shit. These unfortunates will be trying to get into the universities and workplace in a few years – poor bastards.

    • Patrick

      They will get into the universities the main prerequisite being the ability to pay the fees. The worry is these folks are tomorrows politicians and policy advisors. God help us all then.

  • AnonWgtn

    It appears that at Teacher’s College Teachers in New Zealand are taught to learn how to Teach.
    The fact that have inadequate skills in any subject is the biggest problem.
    Teachers are ignorant of the subjects they teach and that this is now systemic, from one generation of Teachers to the next.
    In addition the Asian countries have surged ahead as they want their children to learn, supported by their parents and schools.
    They are highly competitive pupils who do not get NCEA passes by just being teacher’s pets. They have exams against which they all have to work for the results.