Grey day

2021 January 2 Saturday 13:20

Did not see the sun at all yesterday; a depressing start to the year ahead (citc is a blue sky baby). Earlier this week, uk government announced a slight delay in the start of the winter term (yes, winter: cannot possibly refer to it as "spring term" at extant temperatures! End of digression), ostensibly to allow for greater covid-19 tests to be conducted. Laudable, however:

					Using negative COVID tests to decide if it’s safe to go to parties is like using pregnancy tests as contraception.
It's noted that these lateral flow tests are of thirty minutes duration. Suppose a test is performed at the start of the day: do you then do nothing, stay still to minimise risk, or do you proceed to your routine activities with the potential to contaminate elsewhere until the (provisional: a pcr test is still necessary for confirmatory evidence of the sars-cov2 virus presence), test result is indicated?. Similarly, does one take the test at the end of the day, with the possibility of infection and/or transmission during the thirty minutes e.g. travel home/shops? It is not understood from the government guidance for how many days should daily tests be performed of "close contacts" of covid-19 persons.

It is also noted that the wider-scope government guidance about this coronavirus impact upon education has an acknowledgement that access to internet resources may constitute a vulnerability per se. Secondary schools are supposed to provide at least four hours on-line teaching per day(!), whilst further education colleges are supposed to provide evidence of participation in remote lessons by both teachers and students, as a condition of finance. Wow...

More open access to educational research

Good to read that eventually, the educationalists have an open access archive to publish their research for — wait for it, teachers — to view freely, scrutise and actually consider to implement in the real world. All that is needed is for such researchers to have the convictions of the rigour of their methods, to publish in said archive!

Shambolic start

2021 January 4 Monday 22:25

Examples of 'on-line' lessons content has been published. Where is the key stage 5 content for the p-16 people, because they are supposed to be a priority year group? Anyways, it is a moot point, having listened to the latest uk government guidance published today and indecision from many aspects of public sector leadership. Went to teach today, although only to some "on-line" classes. By the end of the evening after the Prime Minister's statement, a scenario now emerges of cancelled exams (again) and tomorrow will begin the tedious chore of reviewing students" demands for favourable "predicted grades". All that is needed now, a vaccine found to be ineffective.

Lockdown 2, week 2

2021 January 17 Sunday 21:55

This time it appears that the on-line learning and teaching is a little more routine. The corporate, enterprise software technology is OK, but provides nil technical functionality for mathematical and chemical notation. One solution found has been to use Whiteboard; as the name suggests an on-line whiteboard web site. One notable feature is the ability to enter LaTeX commands, which are rendered as images onto the whiteboard canvas. It is OK to use with a mouse, but a pen-type tool would be ideal.

Reading other teachers' discussions about how to perform on-line assessment, has promoted further thought about the energies invested to try and replicate the normal "real world" summative assessment scenario of the exam hall. As an alternative, citc is considering to develop a university style "open-book assessment" to evaluate progress. At this time of aspirational university applications, an undergraduate style mini-research task seems apt.

Consultation: a sign of collaboration and/or (in)competence?

2021 January 18 Monday 23:34

Almost on a daily basis, a student asks about news regarding grades awards this yet ("haven't a clue!") or makes some claim ("we're gonna have mini exams, Ma'am/Sir") based upon some random news source. In October, it was announced in a press release that gc(s)e (a(s)) exams were to proceed. By November, face coverings were to be worn in secondary schools, followed by two announcements in December: generous gradesinter alia—; mass sars-cov-2 diagnostic tests together with a slight delay to the start of the winter term for secondary schools (as if these actions would impact upon disease proliferation). Anyway, back to the gc(s)e (a(s)) latest consultation.

					Question 4: To what extent do you agree or disagree that teachers should be able to use evidence of the standard of a student’s performance from throughout their course?
					Question 8: To what extent do you agree or disagree that the exam boards should provide a set of papers to support teachers in assessing their students’ work?
					Question 9: Do you think the use of the papers provided by the exam boards should be compulsory or optional, for GCSEs, AS and A levels?
					Question 10: To what extent do you agree or disagree that any papers provided by the exam boards should include questions that are of a type that is familiar to students?
					Question 11: To what extent do you agree or disagree that if teachers use exam board papers they should have choice about the topics covered in the questions their students answer, for example through choice of which papers they use with their students from the set of papers provided?
					Question 13: To what extent do you agree or disagree that teachers should mark any papers their students are asked to complete?
					We propose that where teachers devise their own assessment materials, they should be comparable in demand to the papers provided by the exam boards. Any assessment must allow students to demonstrate the standard at which they can perform.
					We expect that students’ performance will be assessed within their school or college – we are hopeful that the course of the pandemic will make this possible in line with public health guidance in place at the time. However, even if this is possible for most students, it might not be possible for all. We therefore propose that, if the pandemic makes it essential, where papers are to be used in the final assessment, the papers could be completed at an alternative venue, including a student’s home, where that is an option.
					If any evidence used to determine a final assessment was not completed under the supervision of a teacher (either directly or remotely), the student (and anyone supervising them) would be required to make an appropriate declaration that they had not received unauthorised assistance.
					Question 59: Should the exam boards be prohibited from offering GCSE, AS and A level exams in any country in 2021?
Instead of a fundamental determination to resolve inequity in education and wider society (e.g. only recently has government finally accepted the need for equitable access to internet resources; should have been done during the precedent summer), the extracts above suggest a preference to: offer a return to coursework, teacher bias and inevitable grade inflation; sufficient "loopholes" to allow the street-smart to cheat the system for personal advantage; minimise other countries causing embarrassment by proceeding to provide examinations due to better crisis management.

When pseudo-Labour were in government, the Conservative opposition correctly lambasted them for "failing to fix the roof whilst the sun was shining". The precendent summer was an ideal opportunity to review, propose, consult, refine. Now is too late for another failed cohort.