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08/12/2016 Only one in six A-level students is predicted the right grades by their teachers

A-level students are consistently being predicted the wrong grades, research has shown. Just one in six (16 per cent) university applicants achieve the exam grade points that they were predicted to achieve by teachers or lecturers, based on their best three A-level results. The study, published by the University and College Union (UCU), also shows that students are likely to receive more generous estimates on their performance. Overall, 75 per cent of applicants were over-predicted - meaning their results were predicted to be higher than they actually achieved. Researchers also concluded that around 9 per cent of applicants had results under-predicted. The study examines the top three predicted and actual grades of around 1.3 million students who sat A-levels between 2013 and 2015 and went on to university, applying through the UCAS admissions system. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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    10/09/2016 The GCSE bar has been raised - will pupils rise to meet it?

    September is the month when everyone in education gets to make a fresh start. It is the first September when we finally wave goodbye to the old GCSEs in maths and English. From here on in all students will be studying an entirely different curriculum. The changes are the first stage in a complete transformation of the exam system that will eventually affect all subjects. But it’s a transformation that many parents are unaware of and many youngsters are unprepared for. The most important thing to realise is that the new GCSEs will be harder. The pass rate is projected to decline and there will be fewer of the very top grades to go around. The good news is that sensible schools have done a lot of preparatory work, the changes are being introduced gradually and employers and universities will have time to adjust to them. The reason for all this upheaval is that the Government wants to make the curriculum more rigorous and in some ways more traditional. It believes that the only way to compete with education powerhouses like Singapore and South Korea is to make sure that every child is stretched to the limits of their ability. In English, for instance, there is a renewed emphasis on grammar, on classic texts and on making sure youngsters comprehend whole books not just isolated snippets. The idea is to deepen students’ subject knowledge and to equip them with the key attributes that underpin all disciplines – literacy and numeracy. New GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths were launched in schools in September 2015, with students getting their results in August 2017. The rest of the subjects will follow until all courses have been reformed and all students receive 1-9 in 2019. The new GCSEs will be graded 1 to 9, with 9 being the top grade. These will replace the letters A*, A, B, C, etc. Grade 5 will be the mark of a ‘good pass’. It will roughly equate to a high grade C and a low grade B. The Department for Education says that roughly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above, while the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 7 and above as currently achieve an A and above. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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      08/02/2016 China close to creating 'ARTIFICIAL STAR'

      SCIENTISTS in China are a step closer to creating an 'artificial sun' using nuclear fusion, in a breakthrough that could break mankind's reliance on fossil fuels and offer unlimited clean energy forever more. Until now, Germany has been at the forefront of the quest for nuclear fusion after physicists there used 2 megawatts of microwave radiation to heat hydrogen gas to 80 million°C - but only for a fraction of a second. Last week's experiment in China, which took place at the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei using a magnetic fusion reactor, heralded a massive leap in atomic research. The reactor, officially known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), heated hydrogen gas to around 50 million Kelvins (49.999 million degrees Celsius), which is equal to a medium-scale thermonuclear explosion. The magnetism is achieved by superconducting coils surrounding the structure while driving an electrical current through the plasma. Their goal was to reach 100 million Kelvins for over 1,000 seconds (nearly 17 minutes). Despite the achievement, it may still be a few decades before physicists have perfected the technology to make fusion power a reality. Source: The Daily Express
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        03/02/2016 Teachers 'over-predict' results in race for university places

        Teachers are intentionally exaggerating students' predicted A-level grades to get them into top universities, the head of Ucas has warned. Staff are able to bump up their students' grades because they are only providing predictions and therefore there is very little that can be done to stop them from doing so under current rules. Mary Curnock Cook said universities are becoming "more flexible" with their required grades as the competition to attract students grows. Some teachers are now "over-predicting" teenagers A-level grades to increase their chances of securing initial offers from universities. Data showed a nine percentage point rise since 2010 in the numbers of students predicted to score at least two A grades and a B at A-level, to 63 per cent last year. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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          18/10/2015 The beginning of inflation-proof excellence in schools

          The provisional data for secondary school GCSE and A-level results were released this week, but there is no story of ever improving results to report. It may seem odd, but we are in fact delighted with this situation. This is because when we came into government in 2010, we vowed to bring stability to the examination system. From 2005 to 2010, the proportion of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs including English and maths rose from 42.5 per cent in 2005 to 58.2 per cent in 2011. Each year, such increases were celebrated as a testament to government reform and improving school performance. However, these celebrations were based on an illusion. Source: Sunday Telegraph
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            14/08/2015 Top British universities dropping grades as they struggle to fill places

            Britain’s top universities are slashing grade requirements for places on highly-coveted courses as they struggle to attract students during clearing. Russell Group universities, the 24 most elite institutions in the country, had been preparing for fierce competition ahead of a lift on the cap on the number of students universities can recruit. The reform has seen institutions make unconditional offers even before they knew the applicants’ A-Level results, which usually determine which universities people can aspire to go to. But universities were still struggling to fill places during clearing on Thursday, including the University of Leeds with around 380 places left, Glasgow University with over 200, Manchester with around 180 and Queen Mary with roughly 190. Top-performing universities were also dropping grades during clearing. Southampton University had up to 359 courses in clearing, with some departments dropping at least one grade of the three advertised as required before clearing began. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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              13/05/2015 Top 20 countries for pupil achievement in 'basic skills'

              An OECD report has analysed the science and maths results of 15-year-olds in 76 countries. Here are the 19 countries ahead of the UK. Click on link below. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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                09/05/2015 Studying science is one of the best ways to change lives

                Science, technology, engineering and maths - so-called STEM subjects - haven’t always had the trendiest reputation – although Breaking Bad has done a fair bit for the lab coat. Dated perceptions of what studying a scientific degree at university entails, can still put teenagers off. According to a survey last year, while women make up nearly half of the UK workforce, they make up only a fifth of those working in the science, technology and engineering industries. Furthermore, a report in 2013 suggested that the UK needs to double the number of annual recruits into engineering by 2020 to meet expected demand. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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                  06/03/2015 International Homework Table

                  There’s little data on how much time primary school students spend working on homework, but studies have failed to find any relationship between time spent of homework during primary school and academic achievement. The debate continues in secondary school though, where there’s substantial evidence that homework leads to greater academic achievement. The amount of time secondary school children spend on homework varies hugely around the world, depending on the pressures and expectations of each country. According to the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and various education research partners, 15-year-olds in Shanghai spend the most amount of time on homework, at an average of 13.8 hours per week. Students in Finland spend just 2.8 hours on homework per week, but manage to still perform well on academic tests, despite the correlation between time spent on homework and success. British 15-year-olds spend an average of 4.9 hours per week on homework, which is exactly the same as the overall OECD average. Of course some British students refuse to do any homework, while there are many who spend at least twice the average studying at home. But how much do you think children should spend working? Although there are many kids who would rather be reading or playing than working on their assignment, it seems that parents have a very different perspective on the matter. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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                    05/02/2015 Problems with engineers: Poor Maths skills

                    A lot of students lacked basic knowledge, such as the ability to handle fractions or solve linear equations and change the subject of a formula. These skills are all from GCSE maths, with the first two being from the foundation tier. I personally have found these key skills to be lacking in Physics students as well, but this is a bigger problem for those in university. As they have problems with basic math, they cannot handle the advanced math they learn as part of their university course, such as differential and integral calculus, matricies, vectors & vector calculus, complex numbers and fourier/laplace transforms. Due to this, they have a failing module pulling their average down, and worse, they have problems with other units where the maths is assumed knowledge. This can impact their degree classification, prevent them from taking placements, keep them from the MEng courses and even impact their future career. Source: The Tutor Pages
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                      19/12/2014 Universities 'admitting more students with low A-levels'

                      The head of UCAS says the higher education system is becoming a "buyers’ market for applicants" as students get record numbers of offers from universities. Teenagers should be "more ambitious" when making university applications, the official admissions body said today amid mounting evidence that institutions are lowering their entry requirements. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said students could afford to pitch for tougher courses than previously thought because a “buyers’ market for applicants” had been created in recent years. In a major report, it was claimed that students now had much more choice over courses, with school leavers up to 80 per cent more likely to be given five offers of university places than in 2009. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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                        26/10/2014 A level reforms: a new level of confusion

                        Sixth formers will face even more hurdles while the A level system undergoes the biggest shake-up in more than a decade. New courses, a switch from modules to end-of-course exams and a fundamental change in the nature of AS-levels represent a radical overhaul of a qualification once lauded as the gold standard of an English education. The reforms were a response to perceived “grade inflation” as the number of pupils getting top grades increased, and were designed to make A-levels tougher, moving away from coursework towards end-of-course examinations. All these changes may be short-lived, or may not come in at all. Labour plans to put the reforms on hold if it wins next year’s election, and retain AS-levels as a stepping stone to A-levels. So after all this it may well be a case of “As you were”. Source: Sunday Telegraph
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                          23/09/2014 Pupils can gain A grades in GCSE maths with little algebra

                          Teenagers are struggling with A-levels in maths after being allowed to gain good grades in the subject at 16 with little or no algebra, according to research. A study by Cambridge University’s exam board found that pupils could achieve A or B grades at GCSE with almost no algebraic understanding. The lack of an emphasis on fundamental mathematical skills at GCSE is leaving large numbers of teenagers ill-prepared for the demands of the A-level, it is claimed. Researchers told how 86 per cent of teachers in colleges and schools had now been required to introduce catch-up lessons in the first few weeks of the new term to bring pupils up to scratch when they reach the sixth-form. One teacher said the GCSE exam “requires very little understanding to gain the top grades and thus the issue at A-level”. Another told researchers: “You can now get a B with very little algebra. This is unacceptable.” One teacher added: “Some need [the extra lessons] because they can achieve an A at GCSE with 65 per cent and very little algebraic ability. They think they are good at maths but not surprisingly bomb at A-level because it is so algebraic.” Source: The Daily Telegraph

                            12/09/2014 GCSE grading system to be toughened up

                            Top GCSE grades could be awarded to just three per cent of pupils in some subjects under radical plans to toughen up the exams system. The existing eight-point grading system will be scrapped in favour of a nine-point numerical structure to coincide with the introduction of new GCSE exams in 2017. In a series of changes, Ofqual said mid-level grades would be harder to achieve, with standards being pegged to those seen the world’s best-performing education systems such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore and Switzerland. Examiners also revealed that strict limits would be placed on the award of the very top grade to ensure the most exceptional candidates are marked out. Under plans, only the top fifth of performers passing the equivalent of the current A grade threshold will be awarded the new elite mark – a grade 9. Students sitting GCSEs in 2017, 2018 and 2019 will be the guinea-pig generation, forced to test drive reforms this government’s has failed to trial. Source: Daily Telegraph
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                              09/04/2014 Tougher marking of GCSEs will peg grades to Chinese students' results

                              Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, conceded that the watchdog was responding to a written request from Gove that exams should be more demanding because international tables suggest the UK has fallen behind even as results appear to have improved. But the idea of an international educational currency prompted concern from teaching unions, who said some countries excluded certain types of children to boost their scores in international tests. This test would only be applied to a nationally representative sample of pupils around the same time as they were about to sit GCSEs. Ofqual would analyse the results to check that its statistical models fitted the pattern of grades that each year group could earn, allowing it to adjust grade boundaries if a year group performed better or worse than expected. Source: The Guardian
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                                26/10/2013 Teachers’ forecasts aren’t making the grade

                                Research by Cambridge Assessment found that 48.3 per cent of teachers’ predictions were correct, down from 54.7 per cent when a similar study was last carried out in 2011. Just over 8 per cent of forecasts were out by two grades or more. The analysis, of almost 190,000 papers sat in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found that teachers were more likely to err on the side of optimism. More than a third of forecasts were higher than the grades actually achieved, with 13 per cent under-predicted. They also found that forecasts were more accurate at higher grades, with 64 per cent of A* grades and 63 per cent of A grades correctly predicted. The figures show a gradual fall-off, with only 32 per cent of D grades and 27 per cent of E grades proving to be right. Source: The Daily Telegraph