Daily Archives: January 7, 2013

Chris Cook

Last summer, there was an eruption of concern among schools that the GCSE English exam had suddenly been made harder by a change in grade boundaries. Ofqual, the exams regulator whose job it is to keep exams equally easy in all years, certainly intervened: what is not clear is if it got it right, or whether it made it too difficult.

A judge is considering whether the boundary-setting was conducted via a fair process. But we now have some data with which to look at the issue from the National Pupil Database. I have GCSE English (or English language) results and each candidate’s scores at the age of 11 (although not which exam they took, nor their exam board*).

Since the aim of boundary-setting is to keep exams equally difficult, and since Ofqual believes the school system has not improved, we can use these two results together to tell us something: similarly able children at the age of 11 should get roughly the same grade in 2011 and 2012. There are horribly complex ways to do this formally, but I am going for an intuitive method. Read more >>

Chris Cook

In today’s Times, Greg Hurst writes about concerns that some academy chains might be a bit overstretched and find it difficult to continue growing. It has been pretty well established that the first round of “sponsor” academy takeovers was a success. The chains definitely improved the failing schools that they took over.

But some of the groups mentioned by Greg are not doing that well. To start with, here is a sample of academy chains’ results, using the government’s favourite measure: what proportion of children got Cs or better in English, maths and three other GCSE subjects in 2011? I have only included schools in the measure under their current leadership for three full years or more.

[table id=22 /] Read more >>

Kate Allen

Britain is increasingly becoming a country of people who are on the move in search of work, data from the 2011 census reveals.

Nearly 189,000 people in England and Wales are living away from home for work-related reasons, the census found. This is the second-largest category of people with second addresses (after students living away from home), and exceeds the 165,095 people who told the census they use a second address for holidays.

The census asked people whether they had a second address for the first time in 2011, so figures for previous decades are not available. However the Office for National Statistics noted that “an increasing number of people in the UK have more than one residence … This situation led to the need for a new question to collect information on second addresses … [to] help local authorities to plan local services.”

The results make it possible to identify areas of the country with the highest proportions of people with work-related second addresses. All but one of these areas are in London (see table 1, below).

A look at recent figures for the number of job vacancies per unemployment benefit claimant shows that these areas have wildly differing levels of job availability (table 2). This suggests that the search for employment opportunities is not the driving factor.

So what is the cause? Read more >>