The great game: dodging blame for the 2020 A-level results train wreck

The A-level results came out on August 13th. In the absence of exams, they were estimated from several data sources using a fairly intelligent algorithm. Results were well up on last year, yet there were such howls of anguish that the government was forced into a humiliating policy U-turn four days later. What on earth went wrong?

In retrospect, we can see the algorithmic approach was doomed from the start. Let’s walk through this, taking a Continue reading

and if schools *cannot* open in September? This is Plan B

Plan B

It has been widely reported (here, here and here) that the Association of School and College Leaders is not happy about the idea of forcing schools in England to re-open in September, whatever the status of the Covid-19 pandemic.

we would urge the government to have in place a national Plan B in the event that we arrive at September and it becomes clear that a full return is just too risky.

The UK infection rate is already (Aug 2020) going up, and there is a significant risk it will explode into a savage second spike if we force 10 million school-age children into becoming active cross-infection vectors. So I think it’s time to write a Plan B, whether Boris wants one or not. Because Continue reading

Mobile devices in education – damp squib?

Five years ago, everyone was going mobile. Tech blogs were full of advice to adopt a ‘mobile first’ development strategy. In education, the debate raged between the purist all-iPad camp and the libertarian BYOD brigade.

So who won? Neither.

desktop vs mobile

At Yacapaca, we have a unique perspective. Millions of users, years of history. Rather than rush in, we started patiently collecting session data. Browsers automatically declare their parameters to web services so they can be served with an interface that fits the device. Here are the data, broken down by academic year.

And you can see what’s changed; almost Continue reading

This quintessential British value should be the basis of our whole curriculum

British values: Rule of law? Individual liberty? Mutual respect? Democracy? Yeah, yeah. Every country from Albania to Zambia claims those. Even insofar as they are true, they are certainly not uniquely British.

So, what is? What really differentiates us from the Germans, Americans, Russians and Chinese? To my mind, it’s… Continue reading

Do they really get it, or are they just giving me the correct answer?

This article by Dr Niki Kaiser was originally posted on the Kaye Chem Notebook. I wanted to share it with you in the context of ‘future-ready education’. It is no longer enough to teach knowledge, even if that is sufficient to pass an exam. To succeed in the future, our students need a deep and intuitive understanding of their subject. Few writers address this with either the clarity or the practical teaching background Niki does.

Ian

screen-shot-2018-01-19-at-00-20-24

One of the topics I most like to teach in chemistry is ionization energies: explaining their relative magnitudes, and outlining the consequent evidence for a shell structure in atoms. Students must draw on a range of fundamental ideas to master the new concepts that I introduce to them and, although they tend to struggle at first, they eventually “get it”, and the joy that they Continue reading