Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, stood accused of fooling himself yesterday, as he prepared to defend the rising number of A grades at GCSE and A level in recent years. Weeks before this year’s results are published, Mr Johnson will launch a pre-emptive strike against critics of the ever-rising pass rate by insisting that pupils are simply getting better at exams. Since Labour came to power the proportion of young people getting five good GCSE passes has risen by 6.8 percentage points from 54.4 per cent in 1997 to 61.2 per cent in 2005. Last summer almost a quarter of all students were awarded one A grade or more at A level. Universities complain that they can no longer discriminate between the bright and the brightest. Pupils, teachers and examiners insist that the exams have not got any easier despite the improvement in results.

Now the Government claims that research carried out to investigate the writing skills of 16-year-olds proves that children’s achievements have improved over the past decade. Mr Johnson will today tell the UK Youth Parliament meeting at Leicester University that young people must be praised for excelling in exams. “We should be celebrating the fact that pass rates are going up and attainment is rising,” he will say. “Despite the received wisdom of those that seek to detract from the achievements of our young people, research shows young people’s performance is improving.” The minister will cite a report called Variations in Aspects of Writing Between 1980 and 2004 as evidence that the crucial skills of punctuation, grammar and vocabulary have risen in the past decade.

The study, by Cambridge Assessment, examined sentences written by 1,779 teenagers in the creative writing sections of English exams in 1980, 1993, 1994 and 2004. The academics found that today’s GCSE pupils have a better mastery of written English than a decade ago and that pupils use a wider range of vocabulary and have a better grasp of grammar. The report’s authors said: “This evidence of improvement in skills which are fundamental to academic work in all subjects — not just English — should prove very welcome to all concerned in education.”

However, Alan Smithers, director of education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, said that the minister was “fooling himself” over the grades being achieved in the exams. Professor Smithers said that independent studies had shown “no, or slight, improvements” in student achievement, and that this research did not support Mr Johnson’s claims.

The report, which was published last year, looked specifically at vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and the use of non-standard English. However, the authors said that investigating “vital qualitative features of writing, such as imagination, content and style” was impossible on the evidence. Sylvia Green, director of research at Cambridge Assessment, said that the study had found a dip in performance in the 1980s, but that during the 1990s punctuation, grammar and vocabulary had returned to previous standards.


Low-income Australian families turn to private schools

It tells you a lot about the standards prevailing in most government schools

One in six children at independent schools is from a low-income family, a report on social trends has found. Data collected for 2003-04 and published in the Australian Bureau of Statistics report Australian Social Trends 2006 shows 16 per cent of students at independent secondary schools and 17 per cent of Catholic school students were from low-income families. More than one-quarter of students in government schools were from low-income households and 8 per cent were from high-income-earning families. The proportion of students from high-income households at independent schools was 26 per cent, compared with 16 per cent at Catholic schools.

The head of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, said 80 per cent of students in schools belonging to the organisation were from families in the bottom half of income groups. "It is not the high-income families that have driven enrolments at all. The growth of enrolments in Christian schools are people in low income groups," he said. "It tells us that low-income families will spend money on education rather than other things. People will work two jobs and the perception is that they get quality education from non-government schools, values and discipline." Mr O'Doherty said even non-church goers were seeking "biblically-grounded values".

The Federal Government is reviewing its formula for funding private schools. Mr O'Doherty said the low-fee schools could become unaffordable for low-income families unless the Government addressed the way its formula was being applied. Brian Croke, who heads the Catholic Education Commission NSW, said the proportion of families who could afford to send their children to Catholic and independent schools was declining. Both were looking at expanding their scholarship programs to ensure low-income families were not shut out.

The report also shows that parents spent an average of $8690 on independent secondary school fees. Government secondary school fees were about $390. Fees at Catholic secondary schools averaged $3600. The Government was contributing an average of $10,000 for each student in public schools, almost double the $5600 it spent on students in private schools. Parents contributed more than $400 million in school fees and donations to government schools. Independent schools received more than half, and Catholic schools 22 per cent of their funding from fees and charges.

The data confirms the drift from public to private schools: 67.1 per cent of students were in government schools last year, against 71 per cent in 1995. The proportion of students in non-government schools has grown from 29 per cent in 1995 to 32.9 per cent last year. In NSW, government school enrolments fell from 749,880 in 2003 to 740,439 in 2005. Numbers in non-government schools grew from 357,456 to 367,247. Between 1995 and 2005 the total number of schools nationally fell by 25 as a result of amalgamations and closures. The number of independent schools increased by almost 20 per cent in that time.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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