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16–19 Accountability Consultation: Government Response published

02/04/2014

The Government has published its response to last year's 16–19 Accountability Consultation.

Many thanks indeed to everyone who responded to the Consultation last year – it's encouraging to see that University Lecturers were the largest single response group, and to the question about the use of Facilitating Subjects as a performance measure for schools, the answer was a very clear NO.

So, how has the Government responded?

It has dropped the idea of 3 FS as a performance measure, but upholds the use of 2 FS. Currently there are two FS-related measures in the performance tables which every school is required to publish on its website – 3 FS and 2 FS (for example). As a result of the consultation, there will now be just the one FS-related measure – 2 FS.

Although this offers us a little encouragement, in that our campaign has certainly registered, it is not the outcome we were hoping for.

Here is the relevant passage (p.19):

"AAB in facilitating subjects at A level
There were concerns expressed in the consultation about the use of a measure showing students attaining AAB grades in facilitating subjects at A level. Respondents were particularly concerned that this measure could narrow the curriculum, limit choice and devalue arts subjects.
Studying facilitating subjects allows students to keep their university options open, as they allow access to a wide range of courses at top universities. We intend to maintain this measure as a standard of academic rigour, but to address the concerns raised, will only require two of the subjects to be in facilitating subjects."

Our best advice to colleagues at this point is:

  • to ensure that admissions materials online and in print offer as broad a view as possible of the A'levels that will 'count' for a particular degree without reference to Facilitating Subjects, and
  • to continue to lobby Russell Group VCs to abandon the division of subjects into Facilitating and Non-Facilitating on the grounds that it is detrimental to opportunities and disciplinary breadth at School and HE level.

In other news, the GCSE "best 8" measures look like they will also be detrimental to arts subjects… see "Further details of the revised performance tables qualifications, discount rules, and early entry guidance from 2014".

The coding of certain GCSE subjects for league table points means that, while schools get extra points for offering a range of different subjects, offering more than one creative arts area, for example Music and Fine Art, still only gains one point. According to a recent debate in the House of Lords, "a recent review of discount codes for dance and drama has led to our decision to separate them, meaning that they will be counted separately in performance tables […]. We are also taking evidence on the decision to discount art and design", but this is another way that currently some creative arts subjects may be disadvantaged in the way they are viewed by school managers.

Feedback on your actions with regard to these developments would, as always, be much appreciated. And our thanks to those who are helping NAMHE to stay up to date.

NAMHE Committee

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