Tag Archives: exam

PMQs: here’s how Badmouther Boris got from his exams failure to accusing Keir Starmer of IRA sympathy

Johnson v Starmer: in the PMQs battle-of-words, Starmer came out the clear winner against a prime minister that didn’t seem to know what question he was being asked to answer – let alone how to do it.

Prime ministerial failure Boris Johnson showed us all he had no answers about the ‘A’ level results scandal when he wandered off in the middle of PMQs and started accusing Keir Starmer of sympathising with the IRA – by proxy.

The Labour leader had asked a reasonable question – when did Johnson know that there was a problem with the algorithm used by Ofqual and the Department for Education to produce results, as exams hadn’t taken place?

Johnson’s response was not only an insult to everybody whose results were tainted by the system that upgraded private school pupils and marked down those at state schools – it was a direct attack on Starmer, with no reason.

He was clearly off-balance; he did not know what to say about the exams fiasco – so he groped for an attack on the Labour leader that he (or more likely his team) had clearly prepared in advance.

See for yourself:

This is Johnson’s tactic, it seems: if he’s asked a tricky question, he’ll throw a dead cat on the table.

The barb about supporting the IRA had nothing to do with anything at all – particularly not Keir Starmer who, as he said, prosecuted many terrorists in his former role as a lawyer and as Director of Public Prosecutions.

It was simply a means of distracting attention away from the fact that his government failed ‘A’ level students across the country and he did not have an excuse.

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Ofqual chief Sally Collier resigns – over letting Cummings chum’s company have contract?

Exams: If Sally Collier had examined Public First a little more closely, she might not have had to resign.

The big development in the ‘A’ level scandal yesterday (August 25) was the resignation of Ofqual boss Sally Collier – apparently under criticism about the algorithm that marked down students from poorer backgrounds.

That’s what Tory mouthpiece the BBC is saying:

Ofqual chief Ms Collier has been under fire for a controversial algorithm which changed GCSE and A-level marks, making them unfair, according to heads.

It also led to many A-level students losing university places they had been offered, and a crunch on degree places.

But didn’t that only happen because Ofqual had hired useless lobbying/research firm Public First, run by friends of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove?

A spokesperson said: “Due to the exceptional circumstances presented by the cancellation of exams, the single tender justification process was used for this contract, due to the need to urgently procure the work, in line with our procurement policy.”

This comment makes it clear that Public First was hired to find a way forward for students’ exam results. It came up with the infamous algorithm and caused a scandal.

And we now know that the government paid £49,000 for that disaster.

So it seems Ms Collier has resigned, but the fault lies with James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, the people behind Public First.

Other contracts given to the firm under the “no competition” regulations which apply when a service is deemed “urgent” during emergency circumstances include £840,000 to research public opinion on government policies – including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not bad for a firm whose registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Another contract saw the company handed £116,000 by the Department of Health and Social Care to identify ways to “lock in the lessons learned” by the Government during the Covid-19 crisis.

But will the Tories learn the obvious lesson – that Public First should not be hired to carry out any work under any circumstances at all, whether in an emergency or not?

It seems doubtful.

Source: Ofqual chief Sally Collier steps down after exams chaos – BBC News

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Williamson was warned of exam chaos in July, and did nothing. Why has he not been sacked?

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There can be no sympathy for the Johnson government over its ‘A’ level and GCSE exam failures now we know Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was warned in good time – and couldn’t be bothered to do anything.

Former Department for Education Director-General Sir Jon Coles raised concerns in July, and actually had a meeting with Williamson and schools minister Nick Gibb.

The revelation piles up new pressure for the Education Secretary to resign, as he claimed he had only realised there were flaws in the system created to work out students’ ‘A’ level grades over the weekend.

This Site pointed out after he made the claim that it was just an excuse. It seems I was right.

Oh, and it seems he also lied that he was the one who recommended the 280,000 ‘A’ level grades that had been decided using a computer algorithm should be ditched. In fact, it seems Ofqual made the call and the DfE agreed.

All in all, we have learned at least two things from the dangerous mess Williamson has created:

First, that nobody’s fate should be decided by a computer algorithm that is subject to perversion according to the prejudices of its writers and those who commission it.

Second, that Gavin Williamson should be removed – forcibly if necessary – from any position of responsibility in the future. His best job in Parliament is sweeping the floors.

He tried to make thousands of students look stupid but it turns out he’s the dunce.

Source: Tories admit Gavin Williamson was warned about GCSE and A-levels chaos six weeks ago – Mirror Online

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Part-time prime minister Johnson is off on his holibobs again

On his bike: this is an old pic but you can bet Boris Johnson couldn’t wait to run away from all the chaos he has caused.

Do you find it as disturbing as I do that Boris Johnson disappears on holiday whenever the going gets tough for his government?

He ran away when the country faced a huge flooding crisis back in February – can you remember that far back?

He’s away again now, in the middle of the furore over school exam results.

And he even took paternity leave at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, when his ministers were running around like headless chickens, cutting a swathe of death through the UK’s elderly and disabled population – and National Health Service workers.

He said he would go to Scotland for his break, but it would be more appropriate for him to visit in his official capacity – to apologise for, and explain why, his Scottish Conservative leader’s absence from a VJ Day anniversary event to act as a linesman in a football match.

It seems Johnson is not the only part-timer on the Conservatives’ team!

And it might do him some good to have to explain absenteeism by another member of his team.

In fact, if you are a Scottish reader of This Site and you happen upon Johnson in your day-to-day business, why not challenge him over this – and take video of it if you can?

Meanwhile the Twittering classes have been having fun:

Oh… flooding back again, is it? No wonder Johnson has cleared off again, then.

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With two million GCSE results set to be downgraded, let’s see employers, schools and colleges tell the Tories to get stuffed

Exams: GCSE students didn’t take them this year, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t worked hard. The Tories are (again) planning to penalise pupils who didn’t go to private schools, for no other reason than that. Let’s see employers and educators ignore their prejudiced downgrade.

It seems the Tories haven’t learned their lesson from the ‘A’ level results scandal and are planning to repeat their stunt next week with GCSE results.

Gavin Williamson is looking forward to downgrading the results of two million school pupils based, not on the results they are expected to get, but on the fact that they didn’t go to an expensive private school.

Of course this represents a serious and bitter injustice that Williamson will perpetrate for no other reason than because he can.

It represents Tory prejudice against people from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds, with the least privileged expected to fare the worst, no matter how intelligent they are or hard they have worked.

That is Tory ignorance for you. Amazingly, Williamson and his ilk were voted into Parliament by the parents of many of the children whose futures will be irreparably harmed.

Williamson is hiding behind a claim that the results are determined by a mechanical algorithm – but he is neglecting to admit that the algorithm was written to reflect Williamson’s own prejudice, that pupils at private schools must be placed above the hoi-polloi, no matter how stupid and undeserving the toffs’ children may be.

The Tories aren’t going to change. It is their agenda to push your children’s faces into the mud while their brats stand on their backs to bask in the sun.

It is up to others to reject what Williamson is doing – that means schools, colleges and employers.

If a pupil at a state school fails to receive the required grades to get the further education place they want, or the job for which they have applied, because the government arbitrarily lowered their grade, then it is the moral responsibility of those businesses and institutions to side with the student.

And I think we need to see those organisations say as much – now.

Let’s have the reassurance for GCSE students that employers and universities denied to their ‘A’ level counterparts.

I’ve already called for a boycott of Tory-supporting organisations after the ‘A’ level fiasco.

Let’s see who won’t stand with the kids and give them the same cold-shoulder treatment. Do you agree?

Source: GCSEs: 2 million results set to be downgraded, researchers warn | Education | The Guardian

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As parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams, it’s time to ask: Are Tories bad for our mental health?

It seems the Conservatives have a ‘whole life’ attitude to mental illness – they want to create it in the young and worsen it as we get older.

How else are we to explain the concerns about school pupils’ mental health, due to the pressure being piled on them by the state-run system?

We can see that Tory employment policy seems intended to continue this pressure into the world of work, forcing school leavers into poorly-paid, stress-filled employment.

This, itself, is madness.

Pushing people until they crack is not a sign of a good system; it betrays one that is self-destructively exploitative.

Under this kind of system, more and more people will have to retire from work to seek medical help. Who will care for them? And who will be left to prop up the economy as it sags under the weight of the unwell.

Not the wealthy – we already know the vast majority of the rich are idle – especially those in government.

Parents across the country are preparing to withdraw their 10 and 11-year-olds from tests over concerns about their mental health.

Families are becoming increasingly worried about the number of practice papers and revision classes that Year 6 children face during the Easter holidays, The Independent understands.

Thousands of parents have downloaded a letter which sets out plans to stop their children from taking the Sats exams next month because of the “pressures of a high stakes testing system”.

It comes as teaching unions warned about the “damaging” impact of assessments in primary school.

Just last week, the National Education Union (NUT section) voted to explore ways of disrupting the pilots of the government’s new literacy and numeracy tests for four-year-olds.

Source: Thousands of parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams over mental health concerns | The Independent


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Grammar school pressured into reversing rejection of under-achieving sixth-formers

Lawyers acting for some of the affected families had issued judicial review proceedings against St Olave’s [Image: Gareth Fuller/PA].

Does anybody think the head and governors of St Olave’s would have backtracked on their policy if not for the glare of public disapproval on them?

And what will happen now? Will the issue be brushed under the carpet or will we see schools behaving more responsibly in future?

I fear the former.

The grammar school revealed to be systematically pushing pupils out halfway through the sixth form has dramatically backed down and said that all affected pupils will be able to rejoin the school next week without conditions.

Pressure from parents taking legal action and media coverage … has seen St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington, south-east London, change its stance and drop its stringent academic requirements, which had seen pupils who had not achieved top marks being abruptly told to leave midway though their A-level courses.

The affair has lifted a lid on the possibly illegal practice designed to boost a school’s league table position, carried out at a number of high-achieving schools across England, despite schools being unable to exclude pupils for reasons other than behaviour. Friday’s development will put pressure on other schools which follow the same practice to reconsider their policies.

On Friday evening a statement was finally issued on the school’s behalf by the diocese of Chichester.

“Following a review of the school’s policy on entry to year 13, the headmaster and governors of St Olave’s grammar school have taken the decision to remove this requirement and we have today written to all parents of pupils affected to explain this and offer them the opportunity to return to the school and continue their studies,” it said.

“Our aim as a school has been and continues to be to nurture boys who flourish and achieve their full potential academically and in life generally. Our students can grow and flourish, making the very best of their talents to achieve success.”

Source: St Olave’s allows rejected sixth-formers to return to school | Education | The Guardian


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St Olave’s cruelty to pupils shows the ruthlessness of the league table system

St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington, Kent. ‘St Olave’s needs to rethink this shameful policy before it damages more of the young people in its care,’ writes Mark Crane [Image: Gareth Fuller/PA].

Can open, worms everywhere.

St Olave’s Grammar School has been exposed as expelling pupils for underperforming in mock examinations – in order to maintain its position at the top of school league tables.

The practice has been condemned as it harms the future of the pupils it discriminates against – and members of the public have come forward to express their disgust in the letters page of The Guardian.

Here’s Lucy Binney, of Oxford:

Young people who have achieved well enough at 16 to be accepted by these highly selective sixth forms are having to change school halfway through their A-levels, and are likely to end up with qualifications far below their potential.

When a school prioritises its league table position, it suits its interests better for a pupil to get no A-levels once off their hands, than for that pupil to get mediocre A-levels while still on the school roll.

The pupils involved and their families don’t usually make a fuss, because they are humiliated and don’t want to identify the young person.

So the strategy is not only to dump the under-performing pupils, but actually to sabotage their chances.

That is evil. It is exactly the opposite of the way a school should behave.

Sixth-form teacher David Hampton makes another excellent point:

While those responsible for the policy put their own kudos ahead of students’ needs, the media’s tendency to highlight only the successes of these highly selective schools doesn’t help.

True. As a local newspaper reporter, This Writer had to produce many stories praising schools on the exam results gained by their pupils.

But the practice of dumping students isn’t confined to grammar schools, according to Jane Weake, of London:

This practice is also commonplace in many London comprehensives… These students are just being cynically abandoned to sink or swim. Often they sink! This is not in their best interests.

Philip Kerridge of Bodmin asserts:

While schools are under enormous pressure to deliver results they will cheat. Who says so? Not only me but also Durham University’s Professor Rob Coe in evidence to a House of Commons committee investigating primary school assessment.

Environmental toxicologist Mark Crane, himself an Old Olavian, expressed his surprise at the school’s current policy:

If such a punitive system had been in operation when I was at the school then I, and most of my schoolmates, would have been asked to leave, and it is unlikely that I would have gone on to complete a PhD, teach at the University of London, publish over 100 scientific papers, and build a successful scientific consultancy.

So the school is harming not only pupils’ life chances but also the UK’s ability to compete, not only in academia but in commerce and world markets (I would say).

Retired headteacher Chris Dunne warns that the Conservative government’s drive to turn all schools into privately-owned academies would make parents’ attempts to gain redress almost impossible:

The parents who are now seeking legal redress against St Olave’s should count themselves lucky it is a maintained school, and as such governed by laws that make what amounts to an exclusion on these grounds illegal. The government’s drive to turn all schools into academies will effectively close off such an option for all but the most determined, and wealthy, parents.

So the Tories are complicit in this con.


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Is there a lie at the heart of ‘top-achieving’ grammar schools?

Parents and teachers have criticised the school for behaving like ‘an exam factory’ [Image: David Jones/PA].

Is this how grammar schools achieve their elite status?

Around 16 pupils at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington have been slung out on their ear because they didn’t make the grade in AS and equivalent internal exams before entering their final A-level year – the top grade, that is.

This brings a new dimension to the “social mobility” argument about grammar schools: In this situation, the pupil’s background doesn’t matter at all – their only purpose is to present an impression that the school offers the highest-quality education and creates the best-qualified alumni, even when it doesn’t.

Doesn’t that make this organisation a fraud?

And what about the students who have been penalised? Their entire careers are in jeopardy because of this late-stage betrayal by the school they thought they could trust to guide them onto the next level of their lives.

Regardless of their background, their progress into the higher echelons of UK society has ground to an unceremonious halt.

Is it really because they aren’t good enough? Or is it because their teachers can’t be bothered to do the extra work?

It’s easier to just dump the chumps, after all – right?

Then the school maintains an unfairly-earned high status for which the staff haven’t had to work.

Is that what is happening here?

If so, Theresa May should kiss her plan for more grammar schools goodbye – forever.

One of the country’s leading grammar schools has been accused of acting unlawfully by throwing out sixth-form students who failed to get top grades in AS and equivalent internal exams ahead of their final A-level year.

About 16 pupils at St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington, in the London borough of Bromley, were told their places for year 13 – the last year of school – had been withdrawn after they failed to get the required three Bs. One father accused the school of dumping his son like “old garbage”.

Parents and teachers have criticised the school for behaving like “an exam factory”, focusing purely on results and school league table success at the expense of students’ education and welfare.

Days before the start of a new term, those students who have lost their places are reluctantly looking at alternative schools or colleges at which they can complete their A-levels in order to go on to university or pursue a career. All are devastated at losing their friendship group, and many are struggling to find schools that offer the same examining board.

Education experts say a number of other schools – including other high-achieving grammars – are employing similar tactics to ensure the best possible results, but it is thought to be the first time the issue been challenged in court.

Source: Grammar school ‘unlawfully threw out’ students who failed to get top grades | Education | The Guardian


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Is G4S really the right choice to run sexual assault referral centres?

G4S Forensic and Medical Services already provides similar services in Essex, Worcester and Telford [Image: David Jones/PA].

Let’s get one thing straight – G4S promises us that Theresa May’s husband Phillip has nothing to do with the company.

Fine – so why does this inept and dangerous organisation keep winning plum contracts from the Conservative Government?

Only today (December 16), the Prison Service had to take over Birmingham Prison because of what appears to be a riot – that this security-based company cannot control.

If G4S can’t control rioting prisoners, why is it running a prison?

This is the latest in a series of cock-ups that go back through the years.

Can anybody forget the fact that G4S completely messed up its contract to run security at the 2012 London Olympics, forcing the Tories to bring in the Army at extremely short notice?

Now this mob has won a contract providing medical exams and counselling for rape and sexual assault victims – who deserve far better.

Considering the way the benefits system has been perverted to put people off claiming, one has to wonder whether this choice is to put people off reporting these serious offences.

G4S, the controversial private security company, is to run services providing medical examinations and counselling for victims of rape and sexual assault in the West Midlands.

The company has been awarded a three-year contract to take over two sexual assault referral centres (Sarcs) in Birmingham and Walsall. The national network of 33 centres across England which have developed over the past decade also allow rape and sexual assault victims to report attacks without going to the police first.

The decision to award the contract for such sensitive services to the company, despite widespread criticism over its failings in the Olympics security contract, was made by local NHS commissioners who have recently taken over responsibility for the network of Sarcs from the police.

Union leaders and violence against women campaigners sharply criticised the “sell-off” of such sensitive services to a private company with such a chequered record.

Source: G4S contract to run sexual assault referral centres damned | Business | The Guardian

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