Broadcasts

Why do girls do better than boys?

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Programme, 27 August 2016

Interviewed with Dame Alice Hudson by Mishal Husain.

Play Why Do Girls Do Better Than Boys?
NI tops the league tables yet again for GCSEs and A-Levels. Is that because so many of our pupils go to grammar schools?

Radio Ulster ‘Talkback’ Programme, 26 August 2016

Presented by William Crawley with Chris Donnelly (Headteacher Holy Cross) and Robert McCartney (Chairman of the Grammar Schools Association).

Play NI Tops League Tables
A subversive history of school reform

BBC Radio 4 ‘Analysis’ Programme, 18 and 24 July 2016

Presented by Alison Wolf.

Play A subversive history of school reform
PISA – Global Education Tables Tested

BBC Radio 4, 25 November 2013

Transcript can be read here

Scrap Ofsted Inspections?

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Programme, 7 May 2013

Debating with James Park, author of the Demos report, Detoxifying School Accountability, the merits of Ofsted school inspections.

Play Scrap Ofsted Inspections?
GCSE Grades Gone Awry?

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Programme, 25 August 2012

Debating with Tracy Hemming, Headteacher of Clacton Coastal Academy (Evan Davies in the chair), the claim that grades in English have been deliberately suppressed by exam boards under pressure from the government.

Click here to listen.

Concerns Over 2012 GCSE Results

BBC Radio London, 24 August 2012

Interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London about schools’ concerns over this year’s GCSE results, particularly in English. Suggested that it would be wise for the government to respond to those concerns by appointing a senior respected figure to produce a rapid report on what has actually happened.

Play Concerns Over 2012 GCSE Results
Falling GCSE Grades

BBC Radio 5 Live, 23 August 2012

In an interview with Peter Allen put forward the idea that there needs to be a rapid independent review of this year’s GCSE results in English to respond to the concerns of schools, parents and pupils over the unexpectedly low pass rates.

Play Falling GCSE Grades
‘Sweeteners to bring in the best.’

BBC Radio 5 Live, 16 August 2012

Interview with Declan Curry on the incentives universities are using to attract well-qualified applicants.

Play Sweeteners to bring in the best
A-Level Results 2012

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Programme, 16 August 2012

Interview with James Naughty previewing the release of A-level results.

Play A-Level Results 2012
‘Are girls’ schools going out of fashion?’

Voice of Russia, 11 May 2012

Debating the claims of Lord Lucas, owner of The Good Schools Guide, that girls’ schools are becoming harder to defend and more of a minority thing. He said they needed to demonstrate that their pupils were aware of, and equipped to deal with, the world of men, marriage and career.

Play Should the Genders be Taught Separately?
‘How many pupils is too many?’

Meridian – ITV News, 22nd March 2012

Alan Smithers questions the ever-increasing size of primary schools.

“It is a very big step to move from the comfort and security of the home to mixing in the social world of the school. Surely a better way forward would be more small schools close to people’s homes.”

Click here to see article based on broadcast.

GCSE reform ‘not ideal for youngsters’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Chris Howard, 22nd November 2010

The Education Secretary Michael Gove plans to get rid of assessment throughout GCSE courses and put much more emphasis on the exams taken at the end.

Professor Smithers and Chris Howard (National Association of Head Teachers) discuss the best ways of assessing children’s education.

Click here to listen.

‘Apprehension’ over teacher training

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Christine Blower, 15th November 2010

Should future teachers be trained directly in schools rather than at universities?

Professor Smithers and Christine Blower (National Union of Teachers) discuss the new scheme of putting graduates through an accelerated training programme and then straight into schools.

Click here to listen.

Good teachers ‘don’t need top degrees’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Barry Sheerman, 17th September 2010

Is too much emphasis placed on academic qualifications when deciding who would make a good teacher?

Professor Smithers and Labour MP Barry Sheerman discuss accepting those with a minimum of a second-class degree into the teacher profession.

Click here to listen.

‘We need to get early years education right’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Dr Lee Elliot Major, 2nd April 2010

Teachers’ unions will consider industrial action over Sat tests for 11 year-olds at their annual Easter conference. The three parties have outlined their education policies and the system’s failure to raise the standards of the bottom 10% of pupils.

Professor Smithers and Dr Lee Elliot Major (director of Research and Policy at Sutton Trust) discuss whether Sat exams should be abolished.

Click here to listen.

Diplomas ‘must lead somewhere’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Sir Alan Jones, 1st September 2009

The number of vocational Diploma courses available to students in England has doubled from five to ten. The government wants the Diploma to become a core qualification in the education system, viewed to be as valid as A-levels and GCSEs.

Professor Smithers and Sir Alan Jones (chairman emeritus of Toyota in the UK) debate the need for the proposed Diplomas.

Click here to listen.

Sats ‘too stressful’ for children

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Christine Blower, 10th April 2009

Teachers are threatening to boycott the national school tests Sats for seven and 11-year-olds in England.

Professor Smithers and Christine Blower (acting general secretary of the NUT) discuss what teachers believe is wrong with the tests.

Click here to listen.

Vocational qualifications ‘vital’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Andrew Cave, 21st August 2008

According to Mike Creswell, of exam board AQA, GCSE exams have been increasingly designed to test children’s problem-solving abilities rather than their memories. Is the demise of learning by rote a bad thing?

Professor Smithers and Andrew Cave (Federation of Small Businesses) discuss whether thinking skills can be developed without knowledge.

Click here to listen.

Exam marking situation ‘worrying’

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ discussion with Kathleen Tattersall, 18th July 2008

Kathleen Tattersall, the head of Ofqual, had said the quality of marking of this year’s Sats tests was as good as previous years – but now admits it could have been a premature judgement.

Christine Blower (National Union of Teachers) calls the row “a shambles”, while Professor Smithers explains the contract with ETS.

Click here to listen.

The Long View

BBC Radio 4 feature with Jonathan Freedland, 9th April 2002

In this edition of The Long View, Jonathan Freedland explores the role of religion in the school curriculum.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin found his own village of Downe was torn apart over a row about the local school: would the local squire’s favouring of a secular curriculum win out over the vicar’s desire for more religious content, especially when government money depended on it?

The role of religion in our own schools has been highlighted by the debate over Emmanuel College, Gateshead, teaching creationism to its pupils along with evolution. What about children in our schools of faiths other than Christianity? Is it okay to teach the Bible so long as it’s not in a science lesson? Who decides what’s taught in our schools?

Click here to view synopsis.

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