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January 14, 2005
"A distinction in cake decoration was worth more than an A grade in GCSE physics …"

Madsen Pirie comments on the row about how to measure school quality:

The Department for Education has issued new league tables to measure schools' achievement. They show that performance is up, especially at state schools. The news is not all good, however, because the validity of the new tables has been questioned. Controversially they include a range of vocational subjects not previously counted. The Independent Schools Council points out that certificates in cake decoration or pattern cutting and wired sugar flowers are deemed equivalent to GCSEs in English, mathematics and science. A distinction in cake decoration was worth more than an A grade in GCSE physics under the "absurd" system, it said.

There has been plenty of criticism from others, or Stephen Twigg wouldn't be dismissing it. Pirie continues:

Stephen Twigg, the School Standards Minister, dismissed the criticism as "old-fashioned educational snobbery," saying that the move reflected that "the world has moved on."

Why does "moved on" so often make you hear "got worse"? (Moveon.org = Gotworse.org - yes, that works too.)

Pirie ends his posting thus:

What is needed is outside evaluation. We prefer external assessment of a company’s credit worthiness rather than its own evaluation. Similarly, we could put more trust if outside bodies set the standards for school performance and measured their achievement. When the state measures its own performance, we have less confidence in its objectivity, or in the validity of its results.

Pirie also links to these two reports.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:21 PM
Category: League tables
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