Are Schools Failing Boys? (click here to read)

Boys are seriously underperforming girls at all levels of education, which would indicate that they are not fully developing their potential. While this has been known for some time, it is little understood and so little has been done about it. This means that both they and society are missing out on what they could have been. There is complacency because men seem to come out on top anyway.

There is a plethora of possible explanations, which means we do not sufficiently understand what is going on. This leaves us without a sound basis for tackling it. We need a high-level inquiry to sort it out. The seriousness of the issue is such that it calls for a Royal Commission.

Another Year of Teacher Assessment (click here to view report)

GCSE grades in the past two years have been decided by teachers. They reached a record high in 2020, which looks to be exceeded in 2021. Once again, girls have dominated, ahead of the boys by a record margin. They have outperformed them in all of the 30 most frequently taken subjects, except four in the maths and science area where boys were just ahead. The striking gap has been explained in a variety of ways, but could it mean girls are actually cleverer? The popularity of the high grades arising from teacher assessment strengthens the hand of those who want to ditch the exams.

Another Year of Grade Inflation? (click here to view report)

In 2020, there were the biggest ever rises in A-level grades. The pass rate hit 100%, A*/A grades jumped by more than 50%, and top grades in drama, media studies and PE more than doubled. The big question for 2021, where there has been more time to prepare, is will grades return to where they had been stabilised in the decade up to 2019, or will they repeat the gross inflation of 2020? Although students, parents and teachers are delighted with high grades, there is the danger of universities giving places to students who cannot cope and not to students who genuinely deserve one, damaging for the careers and wellbeing of both.

Where Next for Apprenticeships

In a policy report of the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development edited by Tess Lanning (report here), Alan Smithers argues that the introduction of national apprenticeship qualifications would turn the government’s hopes for the new apprenticeships into reality. At present, apprenticeships act as containers for numerous individual qualifications, some of doubtful value and little relevance. There is little to drive the development of tailored training programmes. National apprenticeship qualifications, the highest on par with degrees, would enhance the status of apprenticeships and help win acceptance of them as a genuine practical alternative to established academic ladders. Trainees would have something to aim for and something they could be proud of when successful. Distinctive qualifications would also enable the Government to claim ownership of the apprenticeship brand, fully integrate the maths, English and other core learning with the practical skills, and make apprenticeships easier to regulate. The Government recognizes the problems an apprenticeship qualification would solve, but prefers other piecemeal solutions. It would be so much simpler to have national apprenticeship qualifications.


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