Teacher Talk

Dr Davina Lloyd is head of The Cooper's Company and Coburn School in Upminster, Essex
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The Independent Online

Why has the A-level pass rate improved continually since the late Eighties?

Why has the A-level pass rate improved continually since the late Eighties?

Because children work harder and teachers are increasingly experienced and able. Many of my teachers have been here that long and are very well versed in how exams work. Expectations are much higher, and pupils strive to achieve their goals. Furthermore, pupils can now drop their worst subjects after AS-level, which inevitably will result in a higher A-level pass rate. In fact, I'm surprised the pass rate is not higher, considering that pupils now only take A-level exams in subjects proven to be their best.

Are GCSEs a useful exam for 16-year-olds, or should students go straight to AS-level?

I think its very important for 15- or 16-year-olds to receive a summary of their attainment and a confirmation of their achievement in their educational career to date. If this is left until the end of year 12, we run an increased risk of losing many of those pupils who would need to be reassured of their ability. However, public exams three years in a row is too much; rather than omit the GCSE, I would revoke the AS level - it's too much of a strain.

What do you think of the workload agreement, in which classroom assistants have increased responsibility for teaching duties?

The agreement is aimed more at primary colleagues, who have not had the non-contact time customary at secondary level. Many aspects of the agreement are good in principle, such as the support provided for individual children, especially those with special educational needs. However, the agreement as a whole is difficult to use in a specialised secondary school - for example, supporting examination subjects is difficult for unqualified teaching staff. The predominant impact, however, has been financial, adding an extra burden on school budgets already stretched by increased NI contributions and pensions. The main problem is that the funding promised for implementing the agreement hasn't come through, which is making budgeting difficult.

Is increased funding to tackle disruptive behaviour at the expense of other needs?

Permanently excluded pupils in the borough are catered for well by a pupil referral unit. The main problem we face is that permanently excluded pupils are for the first time being included in our exam results. That means we can never again achieve a 100 per cent pass rate at GCSE. We pride ourselves on academic achievement and this is demoralising for staff.

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