The abolition of AS-Levels will make assessing university applicants harder: greater reliance on GCSE results will penalise late developers

Michael Gove and David Laws justified their decision to restructure A-level examinations on the basis of a flawed piece of statistical research, claiming that the absence of AS-level grades for university applicants would not harm the admissions process. Ron Johnston, Richard Harris, Tony Hoare, Kelvyn Jones and David Manley of the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol have re-examined the data and reached a contrary conclusion: without AS-Levels, late developers – which may include many from educationally-disadvantaged backgrounds – could well have their potential to succeed on a degree course at a prestigious university not recognised.

In 2013 the former UK Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and his Minister of State, David Laws, decided to change the A-Level qualifications taken by English and Welsh post-16 students with academic aspirations. Most of those students currently take GCSE examinations at age 16, in eight or more subjects. In the first post-compulsory year they are examined in four subjects leading to the award of AS-level grades followed, a year later, by exams in three or all four of them for A2 qualifications. The AS and A2 marks are combined to form an A-Level grade.

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The FAB Kids outreach project

Dr Mark Edwards, Research Associate, School for Policy Studies

Dr Mark Edwards, Research Associate, School for Policy Studies

Food, Activity and Bodies (FAB) Kids is a school outreach project based on the importance of healthy lifestyles. It’s a free, fun and educational workshop aimed at encouraging children to think critically about their lifestyle choices (with regards to nutrition and physical activity in particular).

The project, led by Dr Mark Edwards, is being delivered by research staff in the University of Bristol’s Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences (ENHS). We do a lot of research into physical activity and nutrition, and much of this research is conducted in primary schools in Bristol and the surrounding counties. FAB Kids is our way of thanking the schools and children who take part in our research.

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Learning from the sharp end: Education for sustainable development in small states

Terra Sprague, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Terra Sprague, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are quickly finding themselves at the sharp end of global climate change, yet they often get overlooked when it comes to international policy deliberations and decisions. So, why should we listen, and what can we learn?

When it comes to global policy deliberations about internationally agreed education targets and goals, such as the Education for All (EFA) goals and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), small states have often found that their priorities are largely overlooked.

Michael Crossley, Professor of Comparative and International Education

Michael Crossley, Professor of Comparative and International Education

At the Education in Small States Research Group in the Graduate School of Education (GSoE), our recent research focuses upon the educational policy priorities of Commonwealth small states, and others with populations of up to 1.5 million. There are 32 of these states within the Commonwealth alone, generally concentrated in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, but with some additional members such as Botswana and Namibia. These states often share common factors such as isolation, remoteness, and susceptibility to natural disaster shock, but they are extremely diverse in terms of their cultures, languages, human development indicators and gross domestic product (GDP).

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Oral language and reading development: the dialectal divide

Emma Bent, Visiting Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Emma Bent, Visiting Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Educational policy and documentation concerned with reading and literacy over the last 40 years has altered dramatically. The Bullock Report, a comprehensive review of reading and the use of English in the 1970s, recognised the linguistic diversity that exists within the English language. Crucially, it also recognised the strong sense of identity and belonging, both geographically and socially, that such dialects provide their speakers with. More recently, The Cox Report and The National Curriculum have moved away from such a sociolinguistic perspective and prioritised Standard English over other dialects.

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Education spending, pupil attainment and causality

Professor of Economics Director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation

Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics &
Director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation

In these hard times, spending government money effectively is more important than ever. Last week Fraser Nelson challenged the effectiveness of spending in schools, one of the areas relatively protected from Coalition cuts. He said: “The biggest surprise, though, was the money: no matter how you split the figures, the amount spent didn’t seem to make the blindest bit of difference”, his reading of a report by Deloitte commissioned by the Department for Education.

What is the evidence? In fact, it is surprisingly difficult to establish the impact of spending more money on student achievement. This is partly due to shortage of data (researchers always want more data), but there is a more fundamental reason too. Continue reading