Swindon Council leader Councillor David Renard’s comments on the 2015 GCSE results:
Last Thursday hundreds of local teenagers received their GCSE results.I would like to congratulate all of those who achieved or exceeded their expected grades.All exams test students and I know as a parent that many weeks and months of hard study will have gone into preparing to sit these papers.
I would also like to offer some solace to those who did not get the marks they desired.Do not be disheartened. There are good alternatives and I am sure the schools and colleges are providing appropriate support and guidance.
While some schools have shown welcome improvements in their students’ grades, others have fared less well. From the Council’s perspective, the task of helping schools improve their results is a bit unusual.On the one hand, we have a leadership role to influence and encourage the spread of best practice, and generally encourage schools to improve.On the other hand, with all but one school being an academy – and therefore entirely independent of the Council -we have no formal power to compel changes, as we would have had for most of the last century.
However, although we have no formal powers, we have set up an Education Strategy Board with the schools and the regional official from the Department for Education.I am sure this board will look everywhere to identify areas of good practice that can be adopted, or innovations that are worthy of further exploration.
It is timely that the BBC has recently shown a short series looking at what happened when an English school adapted to the Chinese methods for 50 of its students.Although it was only for four weeks, and the British staff intensely disliked the Chinese teaching methods, the exam results showed a significant gap.What I found worrying was that the students taught by the British methods came second.
Now, we need more evidence than a TV series before we make any changes.Was it just the longer hours that made the difference?Was it the presence of the TV cameras?Was it that the teachers clearly had high expectations of their students as well as making the point that we live in a highly competitive world in which core skills and education, are essential?Do we need to hold education and teachers in higher esteem as they are in other countres? Or do we need local authorities to have a strong role in education, as is the case in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong, which are effectively city-states.I look forward to seeing more work on this.
I am not suggesting that foreign educational methods are a silver bullet.Those who have worked in those countries will know that the pressures on children can be excessive.What we cannot deny is that if you look at the accepted international comparisons, Great Britain is only average.That is not where we ought to be.