This one accounting small change could save every teacher 8 hours per week

Here is a fairly typical budget for a smallish 5-teacher department in a mid-sized secondary school:

There is a third item that is usually accounted separately, cost of cover staff. If the average teacher is off for 1 week per year – whether for illness, external training or other reasons, they are covered by a supply teacher costing the school around £200/day.

  • £200 * 5 teachers * 5 days per year = £5,000/year.


Cover staff are notoriously Continue reading

Life after levels: GCSE 9-1 survey results

Before half term, I sent a small survey to 10,000 teachers in UK secondary schools. I already knew that a popular “life after levels” alternative to NC Levels at KS3 was to extend GCSE grading all the way down to Y7, but I needed more detail to help plan our future grading strategy at Yacapaca. We got 201 responses – 2% is very creditable for an online survey. There were only three questions, and here are the results:
Just over half – 53.3% use GCSE 9-1 at KS3.  I don’t know what proportion of the “in future” respondents will use it at KS3, but if we assume half of them, it pushes the total usage up to 60.5%. Like or lump, it’s becoming the default for KS3.
Oh dear me. How on earth are teachers supposed to communicate student progress to each other, when two thirds record it on one basis, and one third on an entirely different one?
What makes it worse is that, as you can see below, it is not at all clear that many teachers even know there are two bases in common use. Too many teachers are likely to be labouring under the delusion that their way universal. I leave the kind of disastrous cockups that might ensue to your imagination.

What else is important to you about GCSE 9-1 grading?

This open question was designed to illuminate the thinking behind the raw statistics, and indeed it did. I don’t have permission to credit these quotes, sorry:
There is a lot of confusion over the grading system. Accurate mapping from A* – G is not available
  • nor can it be, due to Grade 9 being norm-referenced. At the top end of the ability spectrum, you can only predict a GCSE grade if you have national data for that cohort.
The difficulty is that we don’t truly know the accuracy of what we are doing as the way the governmental has set this up has made it quite impossible to judge 1-9 outcomes. We can only really guess.
  • Got it in one.

It’s grade inflation proof.

  • They promised us that, didn’t they. Actually, only Grade 9 is norm-referenced and therefore grade inflation proof. After a few years, student results will just pile up at Grade 8 instead.
There is no link to the IDEAL / Blooms theory, or if there is nobody in my school is aware of it.
  • This is a very interesting point. NC level descriptors focused attention and teaching effort onto high-order skills such as evaluation and understanding. One of the very unwelcome consequences of pulling GCSE grading further down the school is that it will focus teaching back onto knowledge – the very bottom of  Benjamin Bloom’s pyramid.

It is a total Joke. Nobody appears to know what is going on. It is a grade now or a scaled down Y11 grade. I’m already completely sick of it and haven’t started to use it properly.

  • Pretty much sums it up.

Low-cost private schooling

Notwithstanding my general preference for state, non-selective, secular schooling, I am fascinated by Prof James Tooley’s work promoting the value of low-cost private schools. These two recent articles are well worth your time:

How much does your school spend on marking?

I have yet to meet a single head or senior teacher who can answer this off the top of their heads, but it is easy to work out using government-published figures.
  1. Teachers work 55.7 hours/week total1, and spend 9.4 hours/week marking2. That’s 17%.
  2. The average teacher salary is £28,9513, but we have to add the employer’s NI contribution of 13.8% to give an employer cost of £32,946, ignoring all overheads.
  3. 17% of £32,946 of is £5,601. That’s what we spend on marking per teacher, per year.
  4. The average secondary school employs 654 qualified teachers, so the total cost per school is £364,053.
I’ll repeat that. The average state secondary school spends well over a third of a Continue reading

Analysing spelling errors

When students misspell a common word, what is driving the error? I analysed 35,000 Peer Feedback entries in which the student had intended to write “wrong” and found 1614 instances of misspellings – about 5% of the total.


wrong again

Of the misspellings,

  • 62% entered “rong”, a phonetic error
  • 27% entered “worng”, a typographical error.

My own spelling changed from atrocious to moderately good overnight, when a psychologist colleague taught me the visual spelling strategy. It looks like a good proportion of these students could still benefit from the same thing. The rest just need to learn touch typing.