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Schools to be judged on Oxbridge success

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 19 August, 2011 | By: William Stewart

League tables of pupils progressing to elite universities branded ‘misleading’ by critics

Schools are to be officially ranked in league tables by the proportion of sixth-formers they send to Oxford and Cambridge universities under Government plans.

The proposed measure, already being condemned as “very misleading” by heads and “extreme” and “unfair” by social-mobility campaigners, is revealed in a Department for Education presentation seen by The TES.

Given to local authorities last month, it suggests that the Government’s new “destination measures” will include a column showing the percentage of pupils that every college and school with a sixth-form sends to one of England’s two elite ancient universities.

The DfE told The TES there is “no reason” why the percentage of pupils at every school going to Russell Group universities should not also be included.

The news comes as another year of record A-level results this week intensified the competition for top university places.

More than 70,000 entries achieved an A* - a prerequisite for a growing number of top degree courses.

In November’s schools white paper, the Government said it intended to introduce a measure of “how young people do when they leave school”.

But this is the first suggestion that schools will be publicly judged according to the percentage of pupils winning places at specified elite universities.

Martin Ward, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There is a very great danger it will give very misleading information.

“A school or college that is working very hard to persuade young people to go (to Oxbridge) could still have much less success than one that is doing very little but has a lot of middle-class pupils who will instinctively want to go to university anyway.”

The DfE presentation said the destination measures would be a “powerful tool for accountability and self-improvement”.

But the Oxbridge measure will prove of little use in ranking most state schools - last month the Sutton Trust revealed that pupils from just four elite independent schools and one sixth-form college had, between them, secured more places at Oxbridge over a three-year period than the combined efforts of pupils from 2,000 other schools.

The social-mobility charity produced school-by-school figures on general university progression, but decided against doing the same for the 7,000 or so Oxbridge undergraduate places available every year.

Sutton Trust research director Lee Elliot Major said: “The numbers were going to be so low that they could fluctuate very dramatically from one year to the next.

“Our view was that it would be unfair to measure schools by such an extreme measure. For the majority of state schools you find that less than two or three pupils go (to Oxbridge) over a five to 10-year period, and for many schools none go at all.

“There is a challenge for schools in encouraging pupils to consider Oxbridge, but we would be wary of using it as an indicator in itself.”

The DfE presentation suggests the Oxbridge measure would be used alongside more general school performance indicators showing the proportion of pupils progressing to university, further education and employment.

Mr Ward said: “A destination measure in any form is largely going to reflect the social composition of the families of students and not really give you much information, if any, about the work that the institution is doing.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our plan is to publish all destination data where we have it. Oxford and Cambridge are just two possibilities we hope to have available, and data will not be specific to these universities alone.

“While we haven’t yet decided on the exact breakdown of destination by specific institution, our aim is to give parents and students all the evidence available.”

 

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Comment (40)

  • This is clear evidence that:

    1. Gove is totally out of touch with want goes on in NORMAL schools.

    2. Gove has no idea of the PURPOSE of 'education'.

    3. The Tory elite agenda for a very small socially exclusive part of society is at the heart of all Tory education policy.

    4. The lunatics have taken over the asylum!

    Quote: 'The DfE told The TES there is “no reason” why the percentage of pupils at every school going to Russell Group universities should not also be included.'

    There is no reason why the percentage of pupils at every school going to jail, or gaol, for tax dodging should not also be included.

    There is no reason why the percentage of pupils at every school going on to become an expense fiddling MP should not also be included.

    There is no reason why the percentage of pupils at every school who go on to work for News Internation & hack-phones for a living should not also be included.

    Any other ridiculous measures of school 'success'?

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    12:18
    19 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • I wonder if it ever occurred to whoever thought this up that some students who could well get into Oxbridge might choose to go somewhere else. This definitely happens, because it was a choice I made.

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    16:33
    19 August, 2011

    David Getling

  • Oxbridge successes are one measure, and they are a telling one. Oxford entrance is very hard for a school to game. Just about the only strategy you could use would be to encourage pupils to apply for lower-status subjects.

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    18:12
    19 August, 2011

    bgy1mm


  • If every student in the whole country managed to get the grades and actually wanted to go to Oxford or Cambridge would there be enough room ?

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    20:00
    19 August, 2011

    install

  • Oxbridge would probably further refine their "selection" processes by ranking applicants according to their pronunciation of the word "class"...

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    0:20
    20 August, 2011

    NDominic

  • Let's get elitism right. It matters.

    Firstly, let's look globally. British state school sixth forms are sending children to Harvard (Laura Spence was not an exception). Harvard competes with Oxbridge. It should be on the list. As for the best in Europe; I'll leave that to A-Level language teachers to respond on; but suffice to write: some teachers are waiting for the first GCSE in a European language to be taken at the end of year 9 (since the current “cohort” of pupils can, by then, have studied that language for more years than the average 16 year-old in the "fifth year" had done in the early 1990s). If writing about taking French GCSE at the end of year 9 is controversial, look at how it compares to the English skills of mainland-Europeans aged 14 and remember that, between them, full-NATO-members France and the UK, built much of what became the USA: there are some things we have the capacity to do rather well together (roll on ESA, UKSA & NASA’s merger and the space-Concorde project!?).

    Secondly, let's get the UK right. Who wrote that DfE presentation? The "Russell group" might best be compared to the hereditary House of Lords: it contains some Universities that have worked +hard+ to retain the position they have inherited from previous generations of academics and administrators; it contains some who have rested on their laurels. The House of Lords is already well on the way to being reformed; the Russell group is long-overdue removal and replacement: let's focus on the current elite [maybe they should be elected under international-list PR? ;) ]. The Times and the Guardian and others run University league tables. If we are referring to the top 20 British Universities, let's write that: the Russell Group is not aligned with those lists. And moreover, let’s remember the very top spots are contested. In the Times league tables Oxford University has been trumped by London institutions (such as Imperial College) in the past twenty years (and more than once); Cambridge University may suffer the same fate in years to come (after a long run of success, it has been trumped in the boat race in recent years - and more than once). Let's keep the UK’s Universities on their toes for the long-term; a name is not enough; nor is an alumni list of +current+ Cabinet (and Shadow Cabinet) ministers and senior civil servants.

    Third, let's not stop at University. I know of graduates from "1994 group" Universities that have gone on to work for global business power-houses; and on from there to manage Oxbridge graduates. I also know of high-performing A-Level students that have rejected Oxbridge to move directly into the "professions": they too have gone on to doubtless interview, reject, recruit, employ and make redundant Oxbridge graduates. Though it pains me to do so, I cite the example of Ernst & Young's Tracy Wood. There are others. If we are going to go for elitism, let's measure and track entry into the post-graduate elites too (and not merely the familiar political and educational elites – or indeed sporting elites).

    Finally, floating around those three objectives, connected to all three, let's measure the mobility elite. Let's track how mobile our students become: how many leave their home towns, counties and countries to find and make opportunities that will secure a stable future for themselves and those that they love and care for. We've been hearing for years how the Chinese and Indian economies are among the world's growth elite. Europe and the USA are arguably teetering on the edge of the second dip of a “double-dip” recession, how many UK A-Level students have had the “gumption” to leave the UK to join those elite countries in the economic growth league? For some, where geographic elitism is concerned, it's not so much "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" as...

    But perhaps one should pause after that final stage, in shock, for a moment; and consider the quantum of Indian and Chinese and Russian and Brazilian students with A* at A-Level (or its equivalent)? Perhaps one should consider that quantum in ten or twenty year’s time?

    Where +are+ we all headed? “Onwards and upwards” one hopes; I always did enjoy C.S. Lewis; but I also enjoyed my Plato; and, right now, we are in dire need of a properly-global (indeed, Universal), "Philosopher King".

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    10:51
    20 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • This obsession with the Russell group is outmoded and merely reflects the particular prejudices of those who go on about it. The truth is that there are 1994 group universities which are better in significant respects than some of the Russell group institutions - for example, are these wonks in the DfES seriously saying that school staff should be dissuading students from applying to Durham (1994 group) in favour of Cardiff (Russell)?

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    11:25
    20 August, 2011

    Middlemarch

  • bgy1mm

    Quote: 'Oxbridge successes are one measure, and they are a telling one.'

    They tell you that the school is a socially exclusive school or not; READ THE STATISTICS!

    Quote: 'Oxford entrance is very hard for a school to game.'

    I thought the PUPIL gained entrance not the school, however coming from the RIGHT SCHOOL does help; READ THE STATISTICS!

    Quote: 'Just about the only strategy you could use would be to encourage pupils to apply for lower-status subjects.'

    Define 'lower-status subjects'!

    If you wish to defend Goves mad idea, explain why it is 'good'.

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    11:36
    20 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Some subjects at Oxford are less competitive than others. If you are set on Oxford as your choice of university, but not committed to any one particular subject, you'd be well advised to apply for one of these less competitive subjects. It's still very difficult to obtain a place, but not as difficult as for some of the other subjects. Less competitive subjects tend to have lower status within the university, that's just natural.

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    12:33
    20 August, 2011

    bgy1mm

  • This is outrageous.

    Many students are put off going to Oxbridge not because they do not have the ability, but because they do not wish to go somewhere where many of the students are so out of touch with the way most people in our country live, that they woulnd't even consider applying. My daughter and her 3 friends now have 10a* a levels, plus a whole clutch of other a and b grades (from a comprehensive school) in "proper" subjects (which has been the other Summer debate recently) between them. 2 of them went for an interview at Oxbridge but felt so out of place by the accents and general loud mouthed confidence of the other candidates, that they withdrew overnight.
    How can our country ever hope to achieve truly accessible social mobility- which is how I sit here as a teacher of 20 years with a good honours degree- when this is the Government's attitude. The fee hike next year will herald the undermining of the whole Comprehensive education system that previously ensured able children "broke through" to University, in one blow as this will be the start of the eventual domination of Universities by Public school children.

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    17:15
    20 August, 2011

    breadmaker

  • bgy1mm,

    Quote: 'Some subjects at Oxford are less competitive than others.'

    Some subjects at some colleges at Oxford are less competitive than other subjects at other colleges at Oxford. Applying to Oxford from a non-selective school which doesn't have 'inside' knowledge of the system is a nightmare. Part of the social exclusivity is knowing the Oxford system, training kids to pass the Oxford interview. But EXACTLY how does that make it a good ACADEMIC establishment. It certainly makes it a socially exclusive club.

    Quote: 'If you are set on Oxford as your choice of university, but not committed to any one particular subject, you'd be well advised to apply for one of these less competitive subjects. It's still very difficult to obtain a place, but not as difficult as for some of the other subjects.'

    If people apply to the university for anything, rather than being driven by a subject; you are just confirming Oxford as a socially exclusive club for the rich & those in-the-know.

    Quote: 'Less competitive subjects tend to have lower status within the university, that's just natural.'

    Keep digging! By talking of status within this socially exclusive club you are confirming everthing that non-Oxbridge people fear of these places.

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    17:31
    20 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • breadmaker

    Quote: 'How can our country ever hope to achieve truly accessible social mobility- which is how I sit here as a teacher of 20 years with a good honours degree- when this is the Government's attitude. The fee hike next year will herald the undermining of the whole Comprehensive education system that previously ensured able children "broke through" to University, in one blow as this will be the start of the eventual domination of Universities by Public school children.'

    The current government DON'T WANT social mobility; that implies people going 'down' as well as 'up'. They only want the right-sort going 'up'. There has always been a domination of Universities by Public school educated children. For a while it LOOKED as if that grip was losing hold but by 2015 the grip will be stronger than ever.

    The Comprehensive education system is HATED by Gove & the current Tory Hurray-Henry's; every one of Goves policies has damaged it, the cummulative effect is frightening. Forget universal education as aimed for in the 1944 act & everything that followed; the Academies (post-2010) & free schools will see the Comprehensive education system destroyed by 2015.

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    17:38
    20 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Now, not merely due to her apparent love of 1980's cop shows, Middlemarch knows "their" stuff.

    Let's not further feed the Oxford University frenzy by rattling on about Oxford University access. Widen the field of debate.

    There are plenty of fantastic Universities out there.

    Let's get elitism right.

    And, maybe, whilst we're at it maybe let's knock the old grammar school model for failing to transfer in (and out) fairly regularly at ages above 12. People change as they get older (particularly when having to wrestle with puberty and physical challenges as well as intellectual challenges). Albert Einstein's one (over-used) example of that.

    Oh, and do let’s try to get some statistics in there about out-of-school-hours learning and the difference it can make with respect to obtaining University offers (from the real elite Universities). By my reckoning there are seven hours in a 9am-5pm working day (I exclude one hour for breaks). That leaves seventeen hours +not+ at work. The school day is shorter. That's a lot of time that is beyond teachers' control; albeit their influence can (potentially) be felt with family and friends' support around completing homework and watching helpful TV and reading helpful books and talking with helpful friends and playing helpful games; and maybe the odd detention if necessary. Families and friends matter. When thinking about the long holidays that private school teachers and pupils enjoy, it is worth remembering that.

    But let’s not lose track. Elitism. Looking at the global position. Harvard. The rest of the Universities at the top of the global league table. Globally-competitive pricing for degrees. The cost of flights. Geographic-mobility. Anyone watch “Good Will Hunting” recently? How about "The Code"?

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    20:20
    20 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • Looking at this from the other side, do you know of any schools that send people to Oxbridge that don't already make a big song and dance about it in the local press, prospectuses etc????? What is the cost going to be of putting the league tables together and issuing them to the press?

    I'd suggest that any parent who chooses a school on the sole basis of any league table without finding out more from visits etc needs their heads examining.

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    22:11
    20 August, 2011

    pcsimon

  • pcsimon

    If Gove was HONEST, and we know he isn't, he'd be upfront about this. Gove is REALLY only interested in the top 30% of academic (and therefore socially exclusive kids) in this country; the old grammer school kids. The rest he see's as fodder for the manual jobs & industrial repetitive assembly line people. His ideal model is to get the middle classes well educated at elite'ist type institutions (most Russell group uni's) while the REAL elite take their inherited role as leaders of industry at our best (& very well paid for) Oxbridge institutions. He never understood why people went to Polytechnics before his party got rid of them & he certainly doesn't understand why anyone would study at a 'lower' class university at all.

    Suddenly he got power & he is able to help his chums sort out which of their independant schools are the 'best' in terms of not just exam results but Oxbridge league tables; he can't resist this as Dave, George & himself sit there saying Millfield is miles better than Felsted but by how much?

    To most people Oxbridge is about Eton, the Bullingdon Club, Rah Rah etc and Dave, George & Gove really haven't a clue why this doesn't represent peoples view of 'education'; after all, it represents theirs!!!!

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    22:24
    20 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Mr Bond - Appreciate "Brooke knows best" 'n' all; but, really, "Russell Group"?! This +is+ 2011. The Russell Group members were originally selected +when+ exactly? +How+ exactly? Using Oxbridge and/or the Russell Group is not at all like judging schools by reference to who sends pupils to work for the Kings of Mercia, Wessex, etc; but, +really+, things +do+ move on. Let's remember Harvard was founded long after Cambridge University and Oxford University but trumps them, regularly, in the global league tables. Let's give a few more UK Universities the opportunity to compete with the USA's Ivy League by framing this list properly. Again, there are proper league tables (by department) for all UK Universities.

    pcsimon - I agree: those schools that like to do promote the fact that they've sent students to the best Universities; and rankings are best looked at on a departmental basis (the University of Essex "kicks posterior" on politics so the Guardian suggests; albeit maybe it doesn't kick the posterior of Oxford's PPE course); but, frankly, things have moved on. "The best" (in England) is not just Oxford and Cambridge; and we've got to be careful lauding the "Russell Group". We English are in danger of "talking up" are own Universities so much that our global and national objectivity (and hence intelligence) is threatened. So, instead, let's look at Harvard and the rest: perhaps the TES could make some calls to the USA and find out how many UK students are flying over to start this "Fall"? Not sure how one deals with ROW (rest of the world) but I understand the University of Maastricht was offering remarkably competitive prices for courses starting this Autumn; as for surfer students in Australia (or others), I've no idea on the course prices or relative attractions. How many overseas scholarships +are+ UK educated students winning?

    Overall message: think "value for money". Three years is a long time. £9,000 a year plus accommodation costs and the rest is a decent wodge of cash. Where in the world would +you+ want to spend it? With the UK cost higher, is your propensity to "top up" to study overseas (somewhere more “fun” or “Hollywood”) greater or less? Students with brains will look at the whole picture. Old buildings are lovely to look at; it's what's (and who's) inside the buildings that counts.

    P.S. Brooke - don't forget the Labour Party ("Opposition") front bench: Ed & the Balls family are Oxford University graduates old chap. Let's not over-politicise DfE output (the DfE worked for the Labour Party too; and, goodness (I forgot), aren't the Liberal Democrats meant to have something to do with government these days too?).

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    22:59
    20 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • Quote: 'there are proper league tables (by department) for all UK Universities.'

    These 'proper' league tables are far more biased & corrupt than school league tables, with an inbuilt bias for certain universities ahead of others. The tables are based on:
    1. Research Funding awards..............which has nothing to do with undergraduate study & since the ConDem took power funding has been centralised away from post-92 universities as a deliberate ploy.
    2. Reseach cited articles.................has nothing to do with undergraduate study.
    3. Reputation index.................But not as in accept money from murderous political dictators & your 'reputation' goes down. No. We are talking about 'reputation' with other institutions whose 'reputation' is decided by you. A cozy boys club who pat each other on the back & say well-done.
    4. Student satisfaction survey.........think this through. You are in a 'good' university which depends on YOU saying it is 'good' uni, if you say it isn't & your uni goes down the league your degree is worth less. What do you vote? Suppose you have been told you are 'crap' all your life & your grades get you to the uni near the bottom of the table that nobody else wants to go to. Even before you start your course you'd be tempted to grade it down BECAUSE everyone else tells you it is rubbish.
    Need I go on?

    The data that kids want in a 'proper' university league table is available but nobody will publish it.............For any given UCAS points what is the range of classes of degree available to me? (eg if I had BBC would I be better off going to London Met or Leeds to study PE.) Then they could weigh up if a first from one uni would be a better/cheaper bet than a 2:2 from another. Then they could think "value for money".

    Why compete with the USA's Ivy League? Again here is a self-serving 'club' of elite uni's who say they are elite. I've learnt that unless you come from the socially exclusive set in the first place playing elite games is of no consequence.

    You can't avoid politics in this. Ed Milliband was state educated before Oxford, you can't say that of Nick (Westminster School) & Dave (Eton). Poor old George Gideon Oliver Osborne he is out of his league having only been educated at St Paul's School; what must the others think of him? As for Michael (I had it rough) Gove he always mentions that he was 'state educated' before going to Oxford, but forgets to mention his scholarship & schooling at the independent Robert Gordon's College.

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    17:50
    21 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Mr Bond - interesting.

    Perhaps you could team up with others and create a new on-line League table of your own? A new website, it could be done. I don't disagree with your value-for-UCAS-points approach. Especially if it can be international.

    The politics is (potentially) dangerous. You don't mention the background of Mr Balls and his wife (they met at Oxford University); nor do you ask whether winning a scholarship into the private sector from the state sector is (actually) a good thing in terms of social mobility and two-way access to different forms of elites. That's my way of writing state schools can produce better educational results (grades) than some private schools but, frankly, they cannot give access to some of the same people.

    Finally, with respect Mr Milliband, you don't seem to mention the Union elites and other hierarchies. That's my way of writing private schools can produce better educational results (grades) than some state schools but, frankly, they cannot give access to some of the same people.

    As I wrote (above), if we're going to do elitism, let's do it properly: holistic elitism? I don't disagree with your value-for-UCAS-points approach. It might just do the trick. Especially if it can be international.

    I chose "Good Will Hunting" (above) not by accident: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymsHLkB8u3s (wait for the reference to the value of having a public library).

    When will we see a movie about an rich American heir (or heiress) at a UK University falling in love with a brilliantly intelligent but “dirt poor” Brit (hence the reference to Marcus du Sautoy’s “The Code” on BBC2 – and its “recruitment” potential). Answer: we probably won’t. Hollywood doesn’t seem to do “frat” movies based in UK Universities; and we Brits are too self-effacing to produce something ourselves.

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    7:07
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • I honestly don't think League Tables are a way forward; they encourage institutions to concentrate on the stats needed for the Laegue Table rather than doing their job.

    Politics is everything in this. By concentrating on the 'elite' the Tories are doing their correct role as CONSERVATIVES. Their idea of social mobility is helping a few of the working classes who agree to play by middle class rules, but REAL CONSERVATIVISM is about jobs-for-the-boys. Their very core values require the passing on of privilage from one generation to the next. Examine all their policies since coming to power, ignore the cuts, and you'll see their core values stamped on them.

    Quote: 'Finally, with respect Mr Milliband, you don't seem to mention the Union elites and other hierarchies'

    What a strange comment. There is little evidence that 'Union elites' have any of the power you imply.........Think Thatcher, think coal mining. Also, if 'Union elites' had any actual power would teachers & other public sector workers be fighting so hard for their pensions? Maybe you feel these 'Union elites' had power in electing Ed but then again they fund the Labour Party & so have a say. (As a side issue many firms I buy goods & services from generate profit from me which they then contribute to the Tory Party; do I as an exploited consumer have any vote in electing Cameron?)

    There is more to UK 'culture' than Hollywood movies. eg. When will we see Big Brother won by someone with half a brain? Or a TV programme about how good 'excessive' government spending is as it generates a good Higher Education system with te potential to change lives and alter power structures :)

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    10:06
    22 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Oxford would be a poorer place without the Etonians. They're often the life and soul of a society.
    However you don't have to have been to Eton to get a place. There are about 4000 places annually, and only 37 were taken up by Etonians last year. That leaves plenty for people from other schools.

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    11:00
    22 August, 2011

    bgy1mm

  • Mr Bond - somehow students and parents need to get some data to make a decision with. No data is perfect. But something is needed. Otherwise one is working on what? I'll leave you to answer that question: it's non-rhetorical. I still don't disagree with your idea for a value-per-UCAS-point league table to complement the other (very useful) league tables.

    On politics, it's better not to. Eton is fantastic; so is Westminster; so is Harrow. There are many great British public schools. There are many great British state schools. Arguably, the products of the respective systems meet at University and that's where the "magic" happens (maybe Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper could explain that better?). But I do apologise for labouring the USA/Hollywood point. It could equally-well be India/Bollywood or a product of the Chinese or another growing economy/film-industry: daughter of Indian steel magnate falls in love with "dirt poor" (but hyper-intelligent) Brit at Manchester University whilst both are studying engineering and astrophysics? Is there a movie in that?

    On the Unions; I partly agree with you. They are nationally-based and withering in the face of globally-and-very-long-term-organised capital. But they do possess elites; and it's not merely do to plutocracy within the Labour Party.

    As for Big Brother, well (aside from putting the Orwell classic in as a compulsory GCSE text and replacing study of Russia and Germany with study of our own country's history) perhaps I can point you towards the very-civilised winner of Channel 4's Big Brother Four in 2003? Those were the days when Big Brother wasn't quite such a tired TV brand.

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    11:40
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • What did people 'do' before league tables? Ask yourself that.

    Quote: 'Eton is fantastic; so is Westminster; so is Harrow. There are many great British public schools.'

    By what measure are they great? Maintaining social orders? Social mobility? Representation of all ethnicities?

    Quote: 'On the Unions; I partly agree with you. They are nationally-based and withering in the face of globally-and-very-long-term-organised capital. But they do possess elites; and it's not merely do to plutocracy within the Labour Party.'

    The evidence that Ed was state educated counteracts your claim about the Labour Party. As for unions; capitalists have always held 99% of the power in a capitalist economy; THAT is why the Tory party want small state sector. The idea of Union barons was created by the Tory news press as scare tactics for elections.

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    11:55
    22 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Mr Bond - good questions. They do inspire others though. Such as “What was the UK University sector like before league tables?”.

    And then…

    Quotation: "By what measure are they great?". Other than league tables, what measure of success should one use to measure the greatness of the better Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference schools?

    Quotation: "The evidence that Ed was state educated counteracts your claim about the Labour Party.". Is that Ed Balls or Ed Milliband or both?

    Quotation: "The idea of Union barons was created by the Tory news press.". The USA is getting close to gradually creating its own political aristocracy (cite Bush, Clinton, Kennedy families as examples) and hence is getting close to hinting that political monopolies form like any other type. Is there much evidence that there are no hereditary principles within the Labour Party and the Union movement? Have they been exempt or immune from monopoly and/or oligopoly? How have the Balls and Milliband and Benn families done quite so well? Are they alone? Is there a Labour Party "bloodstock"?

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    13:16
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • Why does Gove imagine Oxbridge is the be all and end all. If I had my time again I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. I am certainly ashamed to have come out of the same Oxford college as him!

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    18:42
    22 August, 2011

    nutella

  • Nutella - that is one heck of a quality bath you have there! Does it go well with peanut M&Ms and vintage Marathon bars? But, temptations aside, you do make a great case for objectivity; and raise a few guilty queries I have that I should share with you and (the very patient) Mr Bond:
    i) What were the A-Level and GCSE/O-Level results of the Cabinet and the Shadow Front-bench?
    ii) Can League Tables for MPs and MEPs and MSPs be organised (GCSEs; A-Levels; Degrees)?
    You see, I'm an old stickler for the full picture: the full track record. Was it a lucky interview day for our front-benchers or were they 100%-“dead-cert.s” with a 100%-consistency track-record who would have sailed through their Oxbridge interviews even if their favourite pet cat had died that morning, the interviewer fell sick and a substitute with a specialism they were unfamiliar with had to take on the Jeremy-Paxman-like job and their response to the entrance paper they were given was smudged by rain pouring through an accidentally-left-open window?

    I'm also re-reading "install"'s comments above and wondering if the Government has plans for Oxford University to subsume Durham's Colleges, St Andrews, York, Exeter, Loughborough and all the other "1994 Group" Universities in the Guardian top 20.

    "Breadmaker" makes some great points too. There is something about the quality of a learning environment and how it encourages learning and some of that is about whether one feels threatened enough and some of it is about not feeling excessively threatened. So goes the educational theory; and reality as I have experienced it too: public school children’s cash-and-connections-backed confidence can be somewhat fear-inducing. There is also a question about the potential psychological effects of failing the Oxbridge entrance process: how does it affect subsequent A-Level performance? Does it cause psychosomatic under-performance in A-Levels or does it spur a desire to prove those %&*@&#£’s wrong or both or neither?

    Finally, where is Sue Perkins when you need her? Back in the 1990s, she had a group who had some phenomenal advice on "How to get into Oxford and Cambridge": a comic play taken to British schools.

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    21:29
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • This assumption that HMC is somehow best needs to be challenged; HMC schools DO NOT automatically feature at the top of the school league tables; many good state schhos beat the pants off them........There is more to education than cash-and-connections.

    This assumption that Oxbridge is somehow best also needs to be challenged; especially when you realise they are at the top of the university tables because THEY say so.........There is more to education than cash-and-connections.

    Education is something that can't be measured on a linear scale; if you were educated you'd know that!

    You ask: Can League Tables for MPs and MEPs and MSPs be organised (GCSEs; A-Levels; Degrees)?...............I have pointed out that MP's will vote to make teaching a profession for graduates with a 2:2 & above, but a vast number of MP's aren't even graduates let alone graduates with a 2:2. (Let alone Oxbridge!) Ironic or just plain stupid?

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    22:33
    22 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Ah... I've been expecting you Mr Bond.

    Surely you've heard; teaching is a locally-taught craft; not a nationally self-regulating profession...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoM4OXQVCcE

    (are the Christian roots of education in danger at school as well at University level now? Who began this education process thing anyhow? I know who did at Harvard…).

    P.S. Education is like music: one measures best using more than one scale: more than a single dimension; but one does need to know how to measure.

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    23:07
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • Darn it Mr (Brooke Bond) Tea; you've had me characterise Michael Gove as Lord Voldemort and myself as Blofeld. Not good. One can get far too carried away with these things!

    "If you look at a surgeon, the craft of surgery is allied to a real intellectual knowledge of how the body works. Teaching should be up there with surgery, where you combine the intellectual skills and the talent to produce amazing results." - Michael Gove.

    Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/24/michael-gove-tough-targets-secondary-schools

    But, I do still worry about the leakage of Christianity from the curriculum: not sure we want Vulgarian schools in the caverns beneath Indiana Jones' Temple of Doom in a few decades' time. Thank goodness Mr Bond knows Ian Fleming and hence the inspirational Caractacus Potts!

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    23:41
    22 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • The alternative to christianity or any faith/belief system in our schools is rationality and logic NOT 'Vulgarian schools in the caverns beneath Indiana Jones' Temple of Doom'. Christianity had it's place in our HISTORY and now we are more enlightened it is time to move on.

    Goves analogy with surgery is way off the mark, but even if you accept it Goves interpretation of craft is wrong as most surgeons see themselves as PROFESSIONAL'S not craftsmen.

    If education was like music we'd accept a wide range of taste.

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    9:01
    23 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • It's a numbers game Mr Bond: a numbers game. Some suggest that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Christinaity preserved civilised knowledge through the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. There is a danger of hubris in becoming too confident in our "enlightenment". Some times thetechnologically well-armed rioting hordes might like a simple message since the "enlightenment" may prove inaccessible to those achieving lower grades than you did. Might.

    Gove's surgeon analogy might have intended a reference to the Doctor/Mister distinction.

    If education is like music we may need to share a common language or two; and even have the odd conductor; leader; popular music chart.

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    9:39
    23 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • Nutella - that is one heck of a quality bath you have there!
    Does it go well with peanut M&Ms and vintage Marathon bars?

    It's hazelnuts, not peanuts. My opinion i,s of course, subjective. I speak as I found.

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    15:20
    23 August, 2011

    nutella

  • And I have put the comma in the wrong place. Whoops.

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    15:22
    23 August, 2011

    nutella

  • Quote: 'Christinaity preserved civilised knowledge through the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. There is a danger of hubris in becoming too confident in our "enlightenment".'

    For your information 'civilised knowledge' was kept in many places throughout the CHRISTIAN Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire ask anyone of the Jewish or Islamic faith!

    I think there is much danger of hubris in you becoming too centred on christianity as an 'ideal' religion. As for 'enlightenment' of christianity; just look at the history of the idea of Heliocentrism which was in conflict with church well before the Galileo affair. If the catholic church had it's way, even today, the worlds greatest thinkers would be locked up as heritics!

    Quote: 'Some times thetechnologically well-armed rioting hordes might like a simple message since the "enlightenment" may prove inaccessible to those achieving lower grades than you did.'

    You associate rioting with a low IQ; I don't believe there is any evidence for that. Please enlighten me. Most religiously minded people I know would tend to be those achieving those lower grades than I did, in fact I am aware of a number of studies which have found that religiously minded people tend to have lower IQ's than their more rational neighbours.

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    17:04
    23 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • nutella - please do accept my apologies: I had no intention to defame the hazelnut; I am less selective in my nut tastes (although there are some I simply cannot abide); hazelnuts can be "most agreeable": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P-nZZkQqTc as Cadburys and I agree from time-to-time.

    Mr Bond - you are quite right about the vital role played by the Abrahamic faiths during the Dark Ages; but, here in the UK there were probably a few more Christian monks than Jews or Muslims; though it is suggested Muslim doctors did traverse Europe. I'm afraid it does embarrass commentators on Christianity when they display a poor understanding of historical progression. "Heliocentrism" is all very interesting (set in its proper historic context); but so are: mathematicians' past belief that irrational numbers were somehow evil and wrong; rational scientific thinker's past views that flight was impossible; the "Longitude" debates; etc. Let’s stick with 2011. Times have moved on; so has Christianity; and you must recognise that there is more than one type of Christian philosophy within the "broad Church" (note the contrast with the "Universal Church"). Isaac Newton was a Christian; Harvard University was founded by Christians. A little extra respect s'il vous plait.

    Mr Bond - IQ! I think (further above) you suggest you find league tables and measurement to be philosophically incompatible with education. IQ tests require league tables and rankings; I trust you can reconcile these comments in your own mind. Accordingly, addressing your IQ point, perhaps you might address it to anyone with a first in theology or divinity; they might disagree with you; as may many Christian mathematicians, scientists and engineers. But, I digress. How would you do at the catechism?

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    18:42
    23 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • I see you have no answer to "Heliocentrism"; it is impossible to escape the closed minded approach of religion.

    As a mathematician I'm not afraid of irrational numbers & your example only goes to show how silly BELIEFS are. Beliefs not backed by EVIDENCE; like a belief in god, jesus, the soul etc

    I have a very good understanding of historical progression in christianity. I know that prior to the 4th century jesus wasn't considered a god. In fact the faith in jesus was no more than a deah cult; based entirely on belief & absolutely no evidence. After the Romans stamped their authority on christianity jesus became just another sun-god. Evidence exists so show thisto be the case.

    Quote: 'Times have moved on; so has Christianity; and you must recognise that there is more than one type of Christian philosophy within the "broad Church" (note the contrast with the "Universal Church").'

    There is no evidence of any movement on women priests, gay bishops, rational thinking etc Please offer evidence of this moving on. You mention Issac Newton without 'context'; prior to the discovery of evolution most science was belief based so it wasn't unusal to have irrational people as scientists. Please explain WHY christianity requires 'respect'; I don't respect delusional rantings from any other quarter.

    You say: 'Christian mathematicians, scientists and engineers' without pointing out that christianity and maths/science engineering are mutually exclusive. Name one science theory or maths theorem that depends on BELIEF. Name one engineered object that stays upright or flies or whatever by the process of faith. Cheers!

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    21:44
    23 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Oh! Mr Bond. I think I begin to see what you are seeing with respect to IQ.

    There is some evidence to suggest that IQs improve (maybe some slower than others) as ones senses are exposed to more, different and better quality inputs/stimuli. But that is an area that a teacher of EYFS or Primary children or children with SEN can, perhaps, answer best - since they often help children learn how to recognise the shapes we call numbers and letters as well as helping with interpreting other stimuli. From thence a journey that may lead to a "Top 20" under-graduate University begins (do we need separate undergraduate and postgraduate league tables?).

    There is also some evidence to support a view that it is better to begin education with simple stories that relate to familiar experiences of life as we have known it thus far, know it now and are (initially, more likely) to come to know it in the future. But may I leave it to teachers with a good overview of "catechism" (or the "seven ages of man" or of the "Riddle of the Sphinx") to explain more? I’m doubting the Ministry of Justice will release the KS3, KS4 and KS5 grades of the rioters who have been taken through the legal system over the last week or two (even though the details may be of interest).

    Suffice, to conclude from me, to write (again) that we need a more +global+ Philosopher King and to refer you back to the beginning of this discussion (+after+ you have read and heard from the teachers referred to in the paragraphs above - who are familiar with the chronologically-holistic education of the sons and daughters of man and woman: the true light of learning, laughter and love eternal as P.D. James’ “The Children of Men” might suggest; though paedophobes may disagree).

    " 'It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what +do+ they teach them at these schools!' " - C.S. Lewis (1956) "The Last Battle" Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Puffin p154

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    22:02
    23 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • P.S. Square root of minus one: "Show Me Show Me"

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    22:08
    23 August, 2011

    : ^) : ^) : ^)

  • We all know that August is the silly season, but this idea is abusing the privilege.

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    0:03
    24 August, 2011

    Siegen81to82

  • Quote: 'There is also some evidence to support a view that it is better to begin education with simple stories that relate to familiar experiences of life as we have known it thus far......'

    I agree with teaching CHILDREN simple stories about things which exist or simple stories about things we know don't exist; at some later date we also need to explain fact from fiction. Religions don't do this this continue to teach ADULTS simple stories as their version of the 'truth'.

    For example, the story of Noah's Ark from Genesis is taught as the 'truth' in mant schools despite overwhelming evidence that the STORY was in fact plagerised from earlier cultures and was only a story. I won't mention the STORIES of creation because they are too daft to even think about.

    Why do we need philosophy? Or a global king? Any field that openly examines the metaphysical or pretends it exists doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. A bit like like quoting Aslan, an immaginary lion made up by a christian apologist.

    Quote: 'Square root of minus one: "Show Me Show Me"'

    The Square root of minus one is an immaginary number in that it doesn't physically exist. However unlike other things that don't exist eg the 'Metaphysical' it can LOGICALLY be allocated an algebraic symbol and can become part of abstract algebraic structures in the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras. I can show you the LOGIC of root minus one but I can't show you what the Square root of minus one actually looks like physically.

    ----------------------------------------------

    As for IQ & religion I like to quote Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970): 'So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.'

    Over 70 years of research on IQ and religiosity has shown a consistent pattern. IQ and religiosity are negatively correlated. No study to date has shown that religion enhances or improves intelligence, but almost all studies show that, on average, the higher the level of religiousity, the lower the IQ. This is not to say that all people who are religious are unintelligent, but that religion seems to suppress intelligence. IQ differences can be as much as 5 points or 1/2 of a standard deviation lower among highly religious groups. My own guess is that this difference is due to the inhibitions and suppression of curious and questioning behavior in religious followers. If questioning is prohibited from early childhood, it probably has a decided effect on development or critical thinking skills which are associated with higher intelligence.

    With respect to mental health in the USA, the picture is even more interesting. Nationally, the more religious a region is the higher the incidence of sexual abuse and child abuse. The best predictor of child abuse in a home is alcohol use BUT the second best predictor is religiosity of the parents. Finally, the best predictor of divorce in the US is religiosity. The highest level of divorce is among Baptists and similar groups. George Barna, a admittedly evangelical researcher, has reported consistently that divorce is highest among Baptists and fundamentalist evangelical groups and that divorce occurs most often after one or both spouses are “saved.” He also found that agnostics and atheists have among the lowest divorce rates.

    Yet another indicator might be the incidence of teen pregnancy which is positively related to religiosity in the US. The least religious teens do not get pregnant as often and they also have a lower incidence of STD’s. Finally, all religious groups are represented in prison population about equal to their frequency in the general population with the big exception of atheists and the non-religious. This group is significantly under represented in the US prison population.

    If we agree that divorce, criminal behavior ,teen pregnancy and child abuse are proxy indicators of mental health, then “Houston we have a problem.” Religion is not associated with high levels of mental health. See the links below to various reports.

    Nyborg, Helmuth (2008-03). "The intelligence–religiosity nexus: A representative study of white adolescent Americans". doi:doi:10.1016/j.intell.2008.08.003. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4TFV93D-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=db2ee09bae0195cc1ecbd026da77245c. Retrieved on 2008-10-17.

    Lynn, Richard; John Harvey and Helmuth Nyborg. "Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations". Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2008.03.004. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4SD1KNR-1&_user=10&_coverDate=04%2F29%2F2008&_alid=759868596&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_cdi=6546&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_ct=1&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=bdb3ca48b21fdb2959f6f8ce4b6001de. Retrieved on 2008-06-27.

    Divorce and child abuse:
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

    Also have fun reading: http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/Jesus/Intelligence%20&%20religion.htm

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    12:26
    24 August, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Wow! I watched "The Da Vinci Code" on TV last night; seems Brooke Bond and Teabing share something in common (aside from the obvious). But bias (afterall, there are plenty of non-white Christians, and plenty of examples of women being down-trodden by their male scientist/academic/secular counterparts, and plenty more of secular/pagan/homosexual-types doing all the things both Brooke Bond and Teabing like to highlight Christians as seeking their forgiveness for doing) aside :

    Seems that part of the debate above relates to a key question: "Are we all children?". If you believe (sorry! +know+, logically: which requires belief in the stable efficacy of huge pyramids of syllogisms) you will always have parents (and have had parents) then, by virtue of that fact, you will always be a child. As you grow older you may obtain additional characteristics: brother; sister; aunt; uncle; parent; grand-parent; and so on. You won't live in a vacuum.

    That is one perspective: from the perspective of "set theory" if you like (Brooke Bond seems to be a mathematician).

    Another perspective relates to development (and maybe this is where the link was being made to the riots):

    Who is the child:

    (i) a 40 year old virgin who has a PhD in mathematics and lectures at Harvard?
    (ii) a 17 year old who has already had her first abortion and is working 18-hour days to bring up her two kid brothers?
    (iii) a 19 year old who (three years earlier) was classified as SEN and achieved no more than an F in any one GCSE?
    (iv) a drunken lout with a lout shirt on a Club 18-30 holiday in Ibiza propositioning attractive women with no success (who happens to have just obtained a large payout from the City institution she works for)?
    (v) a 90 year old man who has had no children, had no siblings and is living at the expense of the State in an old people's home and can only wash himself and go to the toilet with the aid of nursing staff (many of whom obtained less than B-grades in their GCSEs) [he was a government minister when he was in his 40s];
    (vi) a person spending time conversing on the internet rather than with "real people" because it is sometimes too difficult to "have conversations like that" face to face!?
    (vii) <<please continue this list below>>

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    12:18
    29 August, 2011

    ? Who

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