Day 36 – Thinking Independently

First of all, well done all of you – 550 hits yesterday and progress in Queens Park – but not from Westfield itself, from the local communities there (see the addition to yesterday’s blog). We know that Harrold parents and lower schools are screaming for an open meeting so keep emailing, phoning and writing to the Head there….and the other middle schools of course…it is your right to hear both sides of the argument in a democratic debate.

There are 6 independent schools in Bedford that have GCSE results published by the DCSF – the 4 Harpur Trust Schools, St.Andrews and Rushmoor. Compared to 7 state upper schools. We have one of the largest proportions of independent schools of any authority in the country, possibly the largest.

When the consultation document was published, it showed an average for 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths of 46.7% for Bedford compared to 47.6% for the whole of England. Not very much difference…but we are lower it would seem…

WRONG. Some brilliant investigative work by a member of SMS led to the admission by the DCSF that the all-England average includes independent schools, whereas the local authority averages only include state schools. So…they are comparing apples and pears…and if you include the 6 independent schools again…

…why not email the man responsible for this pig’s ear of a statistical comparison to ask him what happens when you include the independent schools again? His name is John Goldsmith and he may be contacted at john.goldsmith@bedford.gov.uk. Morning John.

The independent schools in Bedford do a lot of good for the community and SMS applauds their work with John Bunyan especially, which will reopen as a new academy with the aim of raising standards. However, as charities that need to support themselves similar to businesses, they must be rubbing their hands with glee at any change to a “two”-tier system of education. Parents will be flocking towards them. Two quotes from parents I have heard recently.

“Well it won’t affect us. We’ll be taking our child out of state school immediately it is announced and putting her in the Harpur Trust”

“I support the state system. I went to a comprehensive school. We’re not rich, but I would bankrupt myself rather than put my children through a system in crisis.”

Many people don’t have these choices. ACT NOW to help everyone avoid this impending disaster.

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14 Responses to Day 36 – Thinking Independently

  1. JamesD says:

    I could not believe that the professional education officers of Bedford Borough could have made this elementary mistake. So I have just checked on the DCSF Web site and it is true the England Average does include all of the Independent Schools. What is worse is that the same officers made the same “mistake” in the Beds County Council 2006 consultation. It gets worse – DCSF tables for 2008 show that in Bedford Borough 24% of the GCSE candidates were from the Independent Schools so I checked our Statistical Neighbours and their average is only 8% of GCSE candidates from Independent Schools.

  2. Fred Bagnall says:

    My interpretation of the figures would put the 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including Maths and English at 47.4% for state schools in the Borough area and 55.8% for the independents with a weighted overall of 50.2%.

    For 5 A*-C grades at GCSE I get
    State 61.8%
    Independents 93.0%
    Overall 69.4%

    BUT I have no way of knowing I am sourcing the same DCSF data as the consultation document.

    If there is an objection to including statistical neighbours with selective systems because they get better results and better results are the objective, is that not an argument for a selective system?

    On the historic DCSF data the improvement in Bedford is more rapid than for the country as a whole i.e. any gap is closing.

    My cynical offspring says the Middle School heads want Middle Schools because that’s their jobs which is the flipside of the argument you present for the Lower and Upper School heads. You have to accept that cynicism if you wish to apply yours to Lower and Upper School heads.

  3. KDev says:

    Fred,
    I went through the 2006 consultation with an open mind. What I learned was that there was very little difference between 2 and 3-Tier systems BUT that every LA that had tried to change from 3 to 2 Tier had left a whole generation of children with lower results. Since then Northamptonshire has tried it and is now rated as the LA with more schools in OfSTED special measures than any other in England. If, as the blog says, Bedford Borough is actually above the England Average then improve what we have don’t wreak the lives of so many children.

  4. Leodis says:

    The argument is about ensuring the data being compared is like for like! For a borough the size of Bedford to have the disproportionate number of children attend independent schools and not have them counted on the raw data for local authorities when the overall figure does, is making the statistics match your argument. The reality of the situation is as you say ‘the improvement in Bedford is more rapid than for the country as a whole.’ AND THIS IS IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM, SO WHY CHANGE IT!

    As for your last comment about middle school heads – I would agree in part – they are unlikely to be the turkeys who want to vote for Christmas! The key difference however, is that those who made the choice to forge a career in middle schools generally did so because the system matched their philosophy of education. Most are primary or secondary trained but see the value of a system that nurtures top juniors through the first few years of secondary in a way large secondaries cannot. Lower and Upper school heads by and large I suspect are not in the system they lead in for the same ideological reasons.

  5. KDev says:

    A PS for Fred Bagnall’s offspring,
    Unless all Schools promoted posts have to be reappointed all the Middle School Heads will keep their salaries under TUPE or receive very generous redundancy payoffs. Whoever is appointed the Lower and Upper School Heads will all be able to claim an increase in salary as their schools will significantly increase in size.

  6. KDev says:

    Fred,
    We seem to be using the same DCSF tables for 2008. However, Bedford Modern did not give its data for 5GCSE inc Maths and English (just 100% for 5GCSEs). If you leave Bedford Modern out, the Bedford Boro All School Average for 5GCSE inc English and Maths is 58%. So the All Bedford Borough School average must be at least 53% (0% for Bedford Modern)and is probably higher but less than 61% (100% for Bedford Modern).
    What weighting did you use for the overall 50.2% figure?

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      I’ve used the pupil numbers at each school together with the percentages to generate a number of students meeting the grade per school and then established the percentage of all pupils that made the grade. Admittedly my use of the Bedford Modern data for the inc maths and english figure is questionable.

      How representative of the nation is Bedford Borough?

      Might we expect to be above or below average?
      Let’s try to be average is not terribly aspirational

      • Fred Bagnall says:

        OK, without Bedford Modern.
        5 A*-C GCSE including English and Maths in Bedford Borough:
        State: 47.4%
        Independent: 81.9%
        Overall: 53.9%

        National: 47.3%

        Bedford Modern can remain in 5 A*-C GCSEs, as before:
        Borough:
        State: 61.8%
        Independent: 93.0%
        Overall: 69.4%

        National: 64.8%

  7. Fred Bagnall says:

    Taking the England averages of 47.3% and 64.8% from the data source cited above, using James figures for nationally 8% of candidates being from Independent schools and taking the performance differential between Bedford Borough State and Independent as being nationally applicable we could infer national State school figures of 45.7% and 61.1%.

    Aren’t statistics wonderful things!
    Surely a proper State school national figure exists somewhere.

    Of course not all the Independent school students are from within the Borough, some are international boarders and some come in from Central Bedfordshire etc. so it is probably less than 24% of the Borough’s that attend Independent schools.

    These numbers are not the holy grail anyway. Arguably they promote mediocrity – the stronger academic pupils need no help to reach the target and are not pushed, the poorest will never get there and can be forgotten leaving the effort to the borderline cases. However, they are created to try and measure school performance and create some accountability. Unfortunately comparison can be more difficult when your schools do not match the Key Stages and Middle Schools can blame the Lower Schools and Upper Schools the Middle Schools and vice versa. Maybe this will be reduced in the new Trust structures. I suspect value added measures exist somewhere which I admit I haven’t looked at.

    In conclusion, so much to consider but too little evidence publically prsented that this has been done. There could be a case for two tier, there is never a case for do nothing at all, but what more could be done in three tier or will it all go quiet if a decision is made not to change? How about reducing class sizes so more subject streaming and more attention to each pupil is possible.

  8. JamesD says:

    It seems that whichever way you do the Stats the Bedford Borough Schools are certainly not below the average for England. Why did the County Council Officers and now the Borough Council Officers present this false impression to the public?
    The current 3-Tier system is working and it is improving at a faster rate than nearly all other LAs whether 2, 3 or even 4-Tier.
    I will need to find the academic reference, but I did gather that better transitional arrangements between schools, whatever the number of Tiers, are a vital factor in success.

  9. Leodis says:

    James – the reference is from Jenny Symonds who undertook the review of available literature at the Suffolk Review in 2006. As if that wasn’t enough evidence to highlight that is isn’t WHEN transfer occurs but HOW it is done the quote below is from the NEW Primary Curriculum which was published just this April by Sir Jim Rose on behalf of the government:

    The evidence from England and other countries suggests that, while transfer may be a major cause of dips in children’s performance, the point at which transfer occurs is less important than the management of the process.

  10. Alex Monaghan says:

    Gents (and ladies)
    It occurs to me that the traditional independent school system (Prep, Junior from ~9, Uppper from ~12) is not so different from the 3-tier system we currently have in Bedford – and from the results above, it certainly seems to work!
    When I was a pupil at BMS 1976-82 (ok, ok …) there was a Junior School (8+-10+), a Middle School (11+-12+) and an Upper School (13+ onwards). Pupils came into the Junior School from various systems, including independent prep schools. The Middle School was not a separate building, but had its own teaching areas, library, and teaching staff including head and deputy-head teachers. many other independent schools have a similar 3- or 4-tier system.
    I’m not sure which came first, the state Middles or the independent Middles, and I don’t know if BMS still operates this system, but surely it can’t be that bad in view of the results that BMS achieves and the incentives for success which have been in place in the independent sector for centuries.

  11. Maureen says:

    I am a parent and local resident and after reading the blog today I have e mailed Mr Goldsmith asking for more representative figures about average GCSE results for our area. I continue to be overwhelmingly impressed by the effect the SMS campaign is having on local people as they are slowly made aware of the facts and the true extent of the misrepresentation of reality we are being fed.

    Just as an aside…. I actually believe that the issue is more about creating an environment in which each child can develop their own potential academically AND emotionally than creating machines who can regurgitate facts and opinions in a given time scale without actually understanding what it is they are writing about. How many of the people who currently claim to run our country earned grades A* to C at GCSE (or A to C at GCE)? Look at how they turned out. Is that what we want for our children? I certainly don’t. I know from experience that the environment created by Middle Schools is one in which children are given time, space and opportunities to develop appropriately at their own pace.
    This whole proposal is not only built on misinformation, but is totally alien to the idea of doing what is best for your children. Those responsible for this proposal should go and spend a term observing the 4 year groups in a Middle School in Bedfordshire and then try to justify their outrageous claims that it is not good enough.

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