Streaming and Setting. Should we or shouldn’t we?

Surely this is a sensible policy? By reducing standards and allowing almost everybody to ‘pass’ their exams the government has entered into a world where the difference between students is being masked. Not everybody is an academic and that doesn’t matter. Every pupil should be given an equal chance. Gathering people of similar abilities together is surely going to make teaching easier and more efficient. It also introduces (DARE I say it) competition; something that we are surrounded by every day of our lives. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s hard enough taking my 8 year old son to football tournaments where everybody ‘takes part’ but nobody wins. God forbid that somebody should lose!?

Centralise UK Compulsory Education NOW

Imagine if we had just one body setting examinations for 16 year olds in the UK. The government is constantly looking for ways to save money; printing costs alone would save millions. I don’t think parents and the public in general have any idea of the ludicrous work load put upon Examination Officers these days. At many schools it is a full time job! At many private schools children in the same class will be sitting different exams for the same qualification! Mistakes are often made because of the complexity of so many different papers for the same subjects. Results comparisons are meaningless and standardisation is virtually impossible.

We need ONE body setting the examinations for core subjects at 16 and EVERYBODY should sit identical examinations for each subject. This would save money, raise standards, avoid errors and make statistical comparison of results have some meaning.

Private tutors offer exam advice..keep calm and carry on!


Private tutors reveal their top ten exam and revision tips

“Keep calm and carry on” is one of the overriding pieces of advice to UK students currently in the midst of GCSEs, A Levels and end-of-year exams from a survey undertaken in May of 500 private tutors.

The eponymous World War 2 poster message, which has become a widely recognised part of popular culture iconography in recent years, is just one of ten ‘tips’ offered by tutors attached to online private tuition platform Webtutornet and Kensington and Chelsea Tutors to help guide students through the stressful ordeal of revision and examinations.

The ten tips are as follows:

1)      Stay calm and don’t panic whether you’re in the midst of revision or within an examination environment

2)      Get a life balance during the exam period by eating well and getting plenty of sleep with early nights. Aim to get up every morning even when you have no exam!

3)      Create a revision plan that involves a clear structure of 40 minutes on and 10 minutes off. Continual intervals from study are essential to learning. One day of revising flat out will negatively affect the following days so spread activity out evenly.

4)     Go through past exam papers on a timed basis during revision and try to understand what the examiner is looking for

5)      Read the question and answer the question! It may seem obvious but ensure your answers are concise, relevant and clearly structured. Your opinion counts but isn’t enough on its own. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of a subject.

6)      Do the questions you find easiest first. Don’t attempt to do them in the order in which they appear on the paper.

7)      Read as much as possible whether relevant or irrelevant to your exams. Reading is a form of brain training that will help with revision and your levels of concentration during an exam.

8)      Avoid long meandering sentences as nine times out of ten these will act against you. Keep your sentences short and sweet.

9)      Towards the end of your exam, if you have time, reread all of your answers. You are bound to come across a mistake of some description and this is the easiest way to improve marks at the last minute

10)  Understand how the marking works for each question and find the marks scheme on the exam board’s website. There’s no point spending lots of time on questions that offer few points to the detriment of more rewarding ones.

Nevil Chiles, who founded Kensington & Chelsea Tutors in 2002 and Webtutornet in 2012, commented: “The tips we received from the tutors surveyed make for interesting reading and undoubtedly reveal that a calm and organised approach to both revision and exams will reap dividends.

“This is the most stressful time of the year for hundreds of thousands of students of all ages and it’s therefore important to prepare in the right way,” added Nevil who has personally interviewed and vetted over 2000 tutors in the past 11 years.

For more details visit and


Exam grading based on birthdate ….give me strength!!!

Here’s my take on this recent story that appeared in the national media

Summer-born need exam score boost

Are there really people sitting around thinking up this nonsense? Can you imagine the arguments? When would the cut off date be? How would it be quantified? Some things in the world are not perfect; there are probably only a limited number of parents who think about the academic year when producing children!

There is no doubt that somebody born on September 1st is likely to be at an advantage in comparison to a child born on August 31st however grade inflation is a ridiculous, divisive answer.

It would be fair to cite birth dates as a mitigating circumstance but grade changing is an unworkable answer. If younger children are struggling they should be helped and encouraged by their teachers. Do we tell younger students they don’t have to try so hard and older ones that their hard work will be less well rewarded.

Does an argument based on such spurious evidence as this carry any weight?

“More than 60% of September-born pupils achieve five A* to C grades, compared with less than 54%”
Is it me or is that not virtually the same?

“August-born students are also around two percentage points less likely to go to university when they leave school, one percentage point less likely to attend a leading university and one percentage point less likely to complete a degree.”
1%? 2%?
We are also told younger children, “… are more likely to start smoking younger than their relatively older peers.”

Give me strength!!!.

FOLLOW NEVIL ON TWITTER @webtutornet / @kandctutors


A-level results: Top grades fall
There has been a decline in the proportion of A-level grades awarded an A or A* for the first time in over two decades.

Headlining with the message that top A Level grades have fallen masks the overall trend that we have seen for year upon year. As the article says, “The figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications also show that the overall pass rate has risen again for the 30th successive year.” Apart from the fact that nobody seems to understand what constitutes a pass, can anybody really argue that this trend is not simply a reflection of declining examination standards?


As always politicians jump on figures and talk of what marvellous things they have a achieved. Stephen Twigg says that, “These impressive results are thanks to better teaching, better school leadership and Labour’s relentless focus on literacy and numeracy and record investment in schools.”


No they’re not, they are the result of easier exams. If examination boards have to account to Ofqual, have they done so and what have Ofqual got to say about this year’s results? Almost to a man and woman teaching professionals do an excellent job under often trying circumstances but they can only work with what they are given.


The results also showed that independent schools outperformed the state sector. “50% of entries in independent schools achieved A* or A grade, while 23% achieved these top grades in state schools and colleges.”


When I myself taught in the Independent sector the maximum class size was 8. I was able to give ALL of my students the time needed to maximise their potential. You don’t have to be a Mathematician to see the difference. Achieving those numbers in state education is clearly next to impossible but perhaps more teachers and more teaching assistants might help?


Oh, but that costs money! Perhaps the government can sell off some more sports fields to pay for extra staff?


With the examination season approaching I hazard a guess that we are in for another record year.

More top achieving students, more A*s (a conceptual nonsense) and more self praise by the government for higher standards in education.

Is any of this true? Better results could mean higher standards in the education system; teaching professionals do an excellent job under increasingly trying circumstances. But year in, year out? – I think not.

The truth is that examinations are easier; it’s as simple as that.

So perhaps it is a good time to reflect on what these examinations, indeed any examinations are for?

Surely the point of testing is exactly that – to test and see what level of attainment a particular candidate can achieve in a particular field in order to measure them against their pier group.

This can only be achieved by having examinations where achieving top marks is difficult.

Doing well or badly in an examination should not necessarily be a reflection of standards in general, it should simply be a statement of an individual’s personal abilities. If a particular candidate does not excel academically that should not be seen as failure. Not everybody will rise through the academic ranks; there is no disgrace in that. There are many other attributes and skills which can be harnessed in life.

If testing for commercial pilots was dumbed down so more people passed and took to the skies, would that be a cause for celebration? Would the aviation industry be benefiting?

Testing should be to discover ability, not to misguidedly pretend that everybody can achieve top marks.Image

Tell me what you think !!