Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Advanced Science.

In a statement about Science and Maths A-level exams, Sylvia McNamara, from the QCDA, the body responsible for the development of the curriculum and qualifications in England, said
"This summer A-level students will sit the new style exams, which demand a more broader understanding ...
Sylvia McNamara is a very important person, in a high powered job. She is Executive Director for Policy Implementation at Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), her background :-
... having worked at Birmingham City Council as Director of Education and prior to that as a lecturer in special educational needs at the universities of Nottingham Trent and Leicester.
She's obviously the best person the implement policy decisions across the whole curriculum, including those for bright, able, gifted and talented young people - because they too have been recognised as having special educational needs.
If your child is gifted or talented, talk to their teacher, the school's Leading Teacher for Gifted and Talented Education or the headteacher about the support available. You may also find it helpful to talk to your local authority's Gifted and Talented lead ...
Good for you Sylvia for remembering this, well done for making sure clever kids are catered for.

Let's look at the "more broader" Science Diploma Sylvia is so proud of. It should be good, because 
Schools Minister Jim Knight [...] asked the science community, employers and higher education experts to come together to ensure the new Advanced level Science diploma is of the highest possible quality.
These experts must have had lots of meetings, because they managed to produce all these documents
* Initial Scope 09-08
* Draft Themes 10-08
* Draft Themes Annex
* Draft Themes Summary
* Secondary Research Report - January 2009
* Market View Report - January 2009
* Market View Annex - February 2009
* Student Voice Report - March 2009
* Consultation Findings - March 2009
* Criteria Consultation Interim Report - May 2009
* Criteria Consultation Report - June 2009
* Employer Voice Report
* Advanced Level LoL*** - Final Draft for Consultation - February 2010
This diploma will
... be phased in over two years with the Foundation and Higher level being introduced in September 2011, and the Advanced Science diploma now being introduced in September 2012.
It's going to be so difficult that at age 16
* the Foundation level is equivalent to 5 GCSEs at grades D to G
* the Higher level is equivalent to 7 GCSEs at grades A* to C
Crikey, that sounds tough. Imagine the rigour. Imagine the challenges students will have to face to be able to complete assignments and pass tests in only one subject that is equal to all those GCSE passes - and to be able to do all that whilst also studying at least English and Maths and two other subjects to ensure 'breadth' of study. Anybody studying this syllabus must be incredibly bright, and so incredibly focused on learning that they won't mind having their noses glued to books for the two years needed to get through this syllabus.

Imagine how proudly superior these students will feel when they realise they've got a longer list of qualifications than those of their peers who have studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics as single subjects, and who are only awarded one GCSE pass for each. Imagine, too, what this amazing qualification will do to the league tables - every school will be eager to take it up.

It gets even better, because in the sixth form
* the Advanced level is equivalent to 3.5 A levels
Fantastic! It's amazing! Only the most able, the brightest will be able to stand the pace, after all, very few these days manage to do more than 3 subjects at A-level, not even Oxbridge expects that much. The students following this course will be scientific world leaders, so let's hope loads of teenagers sign up to study this diploma.

Ah, you're thinking, it isn't often Mrs Rigby is thrilled by innovative learning opportunities, so why does she sound so pleased?

Well, she's delighted to think the government, via QCDA, has at long last realised that academic rigour is, errm, de rigueur - that it's fashionable, it's common sense, it's the 'in thing' to do.

Mrs R knows that, by the time they reach (now compulsory) 6th form, every single student will have been through 12 years of full-time education and, in the state sector, every scrap of learning will have been dictated and micro-managed by the government and its agencies.

Mrs R knows that every single state school (in England) will have complied with the ruling that makes Science a key subject, a compulsory subject - so no individual student will have been able to avoid either lessons or (in England) assessment at the end of each 'Key Stage', and their results will have been written down on a list.

So it's interesting that the "Diploma in Science" site needs to ask this challenging question
"What is science?"

Oh, by the way, LoL in this context is not the internet acronym, it refers to "Level of Learning"

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