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Ruth Kelly

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  1. There is no doubt that phonics, properly taught, plays an important part in teaching literacy skills. But there is a risk, and one fuelled by recent coverage of the Clackmannanshire study, that phonics is somehow seen as a magic bullet which will ensure that every child leaves primary school as an effective and enthusiastic reader. Phonics is based on the simple premise that in order to learn to read a child must be able to recognise and combine the basic sounds, or phonemes, that make up the English language. But it is a big jump to suggest that teaching children phonics at an early stage in their education would, on its own, conquer the spectre of illiteracy for good, as some of its most enthusiastic supporters claim. Mastery of phonics will, of course, enable a child to correctly "decode" all the regular words on the page. This means that they have the ability to turn the letters into sounds and the sounds into words. This is a critical first step in learning to read, and that is why it is at the heart of our national literacy strategy. We promote phonics as the first and foremost strategy that children employ as they encounter new words. But on its own it is simply not enough. When we talk about reading, we are not just interested in teaching a child to decode. Reading is more than correctly identifying words on a page. It is also about understanding what has been written, and responding critically to the ideas, themes and events contained in the words. This is what we mean when we say that we want our children to read for purpose and pleasure. Authoritative research shows that children learn to read best when clear and direct instruction in phonics is combined with a range of different teaching strategies that develop a child's ability to understand the context of what is written, instantly recognise frequently used words, and use and apply grammar correctly. Between 1997 and 2000, the National Reading Panel, commissioned by the US Congress, assessed the full range of international research on the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read English. It is the most comprehensive overview of strategies to teach reading that currently exists. The panel's report, published in 2000, found that systematic phonics instruction is only one component - albeit a necessary one - of a total and effective reading programme. Last year, 92% of 11-year-olds left primary school able to "read a range of text accurately and read independently with pace and fluency". But this government's aspiration is that children should leave primary school not only able to read fluently, but able to show understanding of significant ideas, themes and events. These are the skills children need to enable them successfully to access the secondary curriculum. Eighty-three per cent of 11-year-olds last year achieved this. That it is a big improvement on the 67% in 1997, but we are determined to see standards rise further. There is more to do to support teachers in enabling children to read, to further develop their knowledge and understanding of phonics teaching, and to learn how this is most effectively combined with different reading strategies. That is why, in the primary national strategy, we are emphasising this within our major leadership programme, our new work with early years settings, and our intensive support for low-performing schools. But we are clear that the way forward is not a prescriptive and reductionist approach to phonics, to the exclusion of all else. To make the most of education and fulfil their potential, the next generation will need secure phonics skills. But they also deserve to enjoy a wide range of literature and poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing; to develop a rich vocabulary; and to acquire the skills that enable them to make sense of, and respond to, what they read. This is what educating a child to be literate means. http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/s...1451844,00.html
  2. Labour has a vision where people are not just left to the mercy of market forces but are equipped to achieve in a market economy. It is a vision founded on many streams of progressive thought - from 19th-century New Liberal thinkers through to social democratic revisionists like Tony Crosland. It's a vision for a third-term Labour government that builds on the success we've achieved. But a vision for our education system to complete a shift from one where "comprehensive schools" have been the focus, to one where achieving a "genuine comprehensive education" becomes our objective. I see no contradiction in strong, autonomous schools working together. We've cre ated schools that excel because they have a clear mission and purpose, but we still need them to work together if they are to achieve their full potential. The comprehensive ideal remains powerful. The belief that drove politicians like Crosland should drive us now. It is a passion that all children, from whatever background, are alike in their capacity to reason, to imagine, to aspire to a successful life. In the 60s this meant rejecting the flawed science and injustice of the 11-plus and it meant radical surgery for a system in which children's futures were, in large part, decided on one day when they were 11. It was the right thing to do at the time, but the comprehensive system created in the 60s and 70s had limitations. There was little agreement on what it meant to provide a high-quality education once children were inside the school gate. Schools tended to take on a single model, with little scope for developing distinctive character or mission. The creation of "good" middle-class and "bad" working-class comprehensive schools was not predicted. And parents and pupils were not at the heart of reform. This does not mean we should return to selection, nor will we. Comprehensive schools have raised standards and done well for many, but they do not seem to have been the universal engine of social mobility and equality that Crosland hoped they would be. They played a vital role in overcoming the institutionalised two-tierism that was inherent in selection, but for too many people they have not delivered what today we call social justice. The facts on social mobility are depressing. As the middle classes expanded after the war, there was considerable movement. But since the early 60s academic surveys tell us that mobility has declined. Studies show that for people in their 30s, the social class of their parents matters more than it did in the past. This is why we must move from thinking merely about comprehensive schools to a vision of a genuinely comprehensive education system for all. First, we need to create a comprehensive and tailored education system within schools. But we also need a genuinely comprehensive local system and we need a system that educates children from three to 19. Differences between schools shape children's life chances, but different experiences within schools are just as vital. This is why my vision is of a learning experience which recognises that when children excel they should be stretched and that when they need extra help, they should get it. Sometimes this can occur within a classroom, but I want government to support schools and the teaching profession to develop further the role of tuition in smaller groups. The second element of change is fashioning a truly comprehensive education system. The needs and aspirations of individual pupils are so varied, it is unlikely that any single institution will be able to fulfil them satisfactorily. As more schools become specialists, as we encourage greater innovation, diversity and experimentation, the system as a whole will become more varied. Teenagers should be able to study at a school, a sixth-form, a college and a workplace. But only when teachers, lecturers, teaching assistants and employers collaborate will they get the best from the system. So let's not forget that education is not just about schools. Children learn from the moment they are born. And education and learning cannot just be allowed to stop at 16. We want to effectively make the old school leaving age a thing of the past. We should be careful not to confuse means and ends. If improved life chances and greater equality of opportunity is our goal, we should be willing to adapt the comprehensive ideal. By drawing on the best of comprehensive schools, but by making our education system work for all, we have a real opportunity, in a third term, to fundamentally change life chances and be a historic force for social justice.
  3. I am proud that my first White Paper as Secretary of State should be on the issue of education for our 14 to 19 year-olds. The reforms I set out here are of vital importance. They are vital to our economy ¬ equipping young people with the skills employers need and the ability to go on learning throughout their lives. They are vital for social justice ¬ giving us the chance to break forever the historic link between social background, educational achievement and life chances that have dogged us as a nation. And most of all they are vital to each and every individual young person, whatever their needs and whatever their aspirations. Executive Summary 1. Our aim is to transform secondary and post-secondary education so that all young people achieve and continue in learning until at least the age of 18. 2. Since 1997, we have carried through far-reaching reforms to raise standards, made possible by substantial new investment in schools and colleges. Primary school standards are at their highest ever level ¬ and in international comparisons, our primary schools match the best anywhere. Results at secondary school are also at their best ever level: in 2004, over 53% of young people achieved 5 or more A*-C grade GCSEs (or equivalent), compared to around 45% in 1997. We have also put in place a range of measures to tackle barriers to learning. Education Maintenance Allowances provide a strong incentive for 16-19 year-olds to stay in education and have a proven track record in increasing participation. 3. But the challenges ahead remain considerable. Numbers staying on post-16 have improved but are still too low ¬ far down the international league table. Many employers are not satisfied with the basic skills of school leavers going directly into jobs. Some young people drift outside education, employment or training between the ages of 16 and 19. The most able young people are not as fully stretched as they could be. 4. We propose therefore a radical reform of the system of 14-19 education ¬ curriculum, assessment and the range of opportunities on offer. The Working Group on 14-19 Reform, chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson, reported in October last year. This White Paper is our response. 5. In it we set out our proposals for an education system focused on high standards and much more tailored to the talents and aspirations of individual young people, with greater flexibility about what and where to study and when to take qualifications. These proposals will: • tackle our low post-16 participation, we want participation at age 17 to increase from 75% to 90% over the next 10 years; • ensure that every young person has a sound grounding in the basics of English and maths and the skills they need for employment; • provide better vocational routes which equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need for further learning and employment; • stretch all young people; and • re-engage the disaffected. A strong foundation at Key Stage 3 6. Our first step is to make sure that Key Stage 3 - 11-14 education - provides a stronger base of knowledge and skills. By the age of 14, we want young people to have achieved higher standards in the basics and to have acquired a sound education - and an enthusiasm for learning - across the curriculum. That will be the platform for the increased choice teenagers will have between the ages of 14 and 19. In order to achieve this, we will: • retain all of the core and foundation subjects within that phase, but review the curriculum to improve its coherence in subjects where there are problems. We will reduce prescription so that schools have space to help those below the expected level to catch up and to stretch all their pupils; • support and challenge schools through the Secondary National Strategy and the New Relationship with Schools to use the new flexibility well; • strengthen the emphasis on English and maths, in particular by expecting schools to focus systematically on those who arrive from primary school without having reached the expected standard in the Key Stage 2 literacy and numeracy tests, continue to publish national test results and introduce a new on-line test of ICT skills; • introduce models of moderated teacher assessment in the other compulsory subjects, providing professional development for teachers to support their skills in assessing young people, which will help to raise standards across the curriculum; and • emphasise the importance of achievement at age 14 by recording in a 'Pupil Profile' for each young person and their parents, achievement across the curriculum. 7. By doing so, we will ensure that more young people achieve National Curriculum level 5 in English, maths, science and ICT; and that all young people are stretched to achieve across all subjects. A strong core 14-19 8. Achieving functional skills in English and maths must be at the heart of the 14-19 phase. These skills are essential to support learning in other subjects and they are essential for employment. Achieving level 2 (GCSE level) in functional English and maths is a vital part of a good education. In order to ensure more young people achieve that grounding: • we have already reduced the amount of prescription in the Key Stage 4 curriculum, providing more scope for schools to support catch-up in English and maths; • we are extending the Key Stage 3 Strategy to improve classroom practice, so that it provides support across secondary schools; • we will expect more teenagers to achieve 5 A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths and we will introduce a general (GCSE) Diploma to recognise those who achieve this standard; • we will toughen the GCSE Achievement and Attainment Tables, showing what percentage of young people have achieved the Diploma standard ¬ ie 5 A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths. We expect to phase out the existing 5 A*-C measure by 2008; • we will ensure that no-one can get a C or better in English and maths without mastering the functional elements. Where a teenager achieves the functional element only, we will recognise that separately; and • we will provide more opportunities and incentives for teenagers who have not achieved level 2 by 16 to do so post-16 and support them in achieving level 1 or entry level qualifications as steps on the way. Routes to success for all 9. Building on that core, we will create a system better tailored to the needs of the individual pupil, in which teenagers are stretched to achieve. We will: • introduce greater choice of what and where to study and make it easier to combine academic and vocational learning; • retain GCSEs and A levels as cornerstones of the new system; • introduce new specialised Diplomas, including academic and vocational material, covering each occupational sector of the economy. The Diplomas will be available at levels 1 (foundation), 2 (GCSE) and 3 (advanced); • require that anyone achieving a Diploma at level 2 must have functional English and maths at level 2; • put employers in the lead through Sector Skills Councils, in designing specialised Diplomas which provide the right grounding for work and further study, supported by higher education and the QCA; and • challenge and support schools and colleges to ensure that young people take qualifications when they are ready, not at a fixed age, encouraging acceleration to level 2 and ensuring early achievement at advanced level is recognised in performance tables and elsewhere. 10. We understand and appreciate the argument that we should challenge our A level students further, by demanding more breadth. But there is no clear consensus amongst pupils, parents, employers or universities on whether and how it should be done. We also believe that so soon after the introduction of Curriculum 2000, stability is important. We will therefore work with employers and universities to see if we can identify what, if anything, would add value to existing courses and we will review progress in 2008. By this time we will also have the evidence from the pilots of the extended project and other measures to draw on. A new system of specialised Diplomas 11. The Diplomas we are proposing will work as follows: • To achieve a Diploma, young people will need to achieve appropriate standards in English and maths, specialised material, relevant GCSEs and A levels and have work experience. • We will introduce the Diplomas in 14 lines and make these a national entitlement by 2015. The first four Diplomas in information and communication technology, engineering, health and social care and creative and media will be available in 2008. Eight will be available by 2010. • We will work with employers to offer more opportunities to young people to learn at work and outside school. • We will continue to improve the quality and number of employment-based training places through Apprenticeships, bringing them within the Diploma framework. Strengthening GCSEs and A levels 12. We will keep both GCSEs and A levels, but improve both in those areas where there is a strong case for change. At GCSE we will: • restructure English and maths GCSEs to make sure it is impossible to get a grade C or above without the ability to use functional English and maths; • review coursework to reduce the assessment burden; • continue work to reform maths as proposed by Professor Adrian Smith, improving motivation and progression to advanced level. This is likely to include a new double maths GCSE; and • continue to promote science ¬ including implementing the new science GCSEs ¬ restating our firm expectation that young people should do two science GCSEs. 13. At A level we will: • increase stretch for the most able by introducing optional harder questions into separate sections at the end of A level papers; • introduce an 'extended project' to stretch all young people and test a wider range of higher-level skills; • enable the most able teenagers to take HE modules while in the sixth form; • ensure that universities have more information on which to make judgements about candidates by ensuring that they have access to the grades achieved by young people in individual modules by 2006. We will also support those universities who wish to have marks as well as grades; and • we will reduce the assessment burden at A level by reducing the numbers of assessments in an A level from 6 to 4 but without reducing the standard or changing the overall content of A levels. 14. We will ensure that there are natural progression routes both through the levels of the Diploma and between GCSEs and A levels and the different levels of the Diploma. By doing so, we will secure for all teenagers routes that avoid early narrowing down, but provide real choice of what to learn and in what setting. 15. We believe that the current balance between internal and external assessment is essentially the right one to secure public confidence in the examinations system. We therefore do not propose major change here. Engaging all young people 16. Our reforms will create opportunities for all young people. For many, the curriculum choices introduced in this White Paper will provide the opportunities they need to develop their talents and so succeed. The vocational opportunities, including different styles and places of learning, will motivate many. Foundation and entry level qualifications will help put more young people onto a pathway that will lead to further opportunities and qualifications. 17. For young people who face serious personal problems, the proposals in the Government's programme, 'Every Child Matters', will be crucial in breaking down the barriers to achievement. In addition, we will develop a pilot programme for 14-16 year-olds, based on the post-16 Entry to Employment programme. This new route will: • provide a tailored programme for each young person and intensive personal guidance and support; • involve significant work-based learning, probably amounting to two days each week; • lead towards a level 1 Diploma; and • lead on to a range of further options including Apprenticeship. 18. We expect this to be available to up to 10,000 young people from 2007/8. A system configured around young people 19. We have designed these changes to the curriculum and qualifications to meet the needs of learners and employers. We will ensure that every part of the education system is configured to meet their needs. 20. We will increase the capacity of the education system to offer vocational education. We will do so by building on existing strengths ¬ for example, extending the role of Centres of Vocational Excellence to making excellent vocational provision available for young people. We will also develop new Skills Academies as national centres of excellence in skills. We will strengthen schools' capacity to offer vocational education, through specialism. The best Specialist Schools will be able to become a leading school with additional resources to boost vocational provision. Significantly more post-16 opportunities will be needed to meet the objectives set out in this paper. Both schools and colleges will make additional provision. We will be consulting in detail on our proposals, set out in our 5-year plan, for a presumption in favour of high-performing 11-16 schools engaging in post-16 provision. 21. We will support the workforce to deliver. We will ensure that the right staff are in place, including those who have the necessary experience of the workplace to deliver vocational education, and that they have the professional development, qualifications and support that they need. 22. Schools, colleges and other providers will take the lead in each local area. A prospectus of options will be made available to all young people, setting out what is on offer to them. Where there are any gaps, it will be the responsibility of local authorities and the local Learning and Skills Councils to commission provision to fill them. Each school and college will be expected to make the full range of choices available to young people on its roll, though perhaps at other institutions. Inspection will ensure that this is delivered. An accountability framework which makes sure that we offer the best to young people 23. Finally, we need an accountability framework which supports and encourages the development of the new 14-19 phase. We will: • include vocational qualifications in Achievement and Attainment Table measures and ensure that inspections challenge schools to offer the full range of curriculum and qualifications; • focus on the basics through continuing to publish tables showing performance in English, maths and science at Key Stage 3; and toughening tables at 16 to measure the Diploma standard: 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths; • encourage stretch for all teenagers through giving schools credit in the tables when they achieve success in higher level qualifications. Through the New Relationship with Schools, hold schools more strongly to account for the progress of all their students; and • encourage institutions to focus on improving staying-on rates by introducing progression targets; and crediting schools for the achievement of young people completing Key Stage 4 later than the normal age. 24. This major package of reform seizes a once-in-a-generation chance to transform 14-19 education and skills. Through doing so, we will seek to widen opportunity for all young people and take the next steps towards a more prosperous and fairer society.
  4. Born: 9th May 1968, Limavady, Northern Ireland Status: Married, 1 son, 3 daughters Educated: Queen's College Oxford; London School of Economics Employment before entering Parliament: Deputy Head of Inflation Report Division, Bank of England (1994-1997). Economics writer, The Guardian (1990 - 1994) Elected: 1997 Labour Member of Parliament for Bolton West Office Held: 1998 - 2001 PPS to Nick Brown (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food); 2001 - May 2002 Economic Secretary to the Treasury, May 2002 - Sept 2004 Financial Secretary to the Treasury; Sept 2004 - Dec 2004; Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Dec 2004 - present.
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