“bland, impersonal, vague and too politically correct..”

Last week the Belfast Telegraph mentioned the end of the evaluation of the Pupil Profiles pilot scheme and the BBC now reports on the outcome. Almost exactly three years after I first referenced them on Slugger, Pupil Profiles are to be scrapped re-profiled.. From the BBC report

However, the latest report on the pilot scheme has criticised both the computer technology and the lack of information in the reports. Parents described them as “bland, impersonal, vague and too politically correct.” The department now intends to rename the profiles Annual School Reports. Teachers will be told they should list whatever level a child has reached and, if they wish, include the class test results. The department said the reports would not be used for academic selection.

Well, fine. Adds According to the Northern Ireland Education Minister, “The term “pupil profile” has caused confusion in the past..”

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  • Driftwood

    How much was spent on this exercise in sheer futility? Who was responsible for the shambles?
    Will anyone be called to account for the wasted millions? An inquiry?

  • delta omega


    Given that the blog title of “bland, impersonal, vague and too politically correct” could equally be applied to our politicians, along with incompetent and numerous other adjectives, the potential for someone to be held accountable for this is miniscule. IMO this is a minor inconvenience compared with the fiasco of how the 11+ in general is being handled.

  • DC

    It seems nothing much happens after balls up such as this is but it leads me on to another thought that has been reccuring. I just find it difficult to take Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness seriously when they make their pronouncements at the assembly.

    I just cant get over the irascible tone of Robinson and the Bog tones of McGuinness I’m just struck by the notion that they seem just ill-suited and out of their depths in what is a fast changing and more modern social life here in NI. They just seem too blunt and mildly aggressive and not agile enough.

    So I suppose do we really expect any serious repercussions whenever the seriousness of the two top men is hard to believe, not least two top men who wouldn’t even put themselves up for a cross-community assembly vote in all likelihood they wouldn’t get it. And therefore not be first ministers.

  • Driftwood

    The department now intends to rename the profiles Annual School Reports.


  • Nuffin’ noo, ‘ere, guv.

    A decade and a half ago (doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?), as the result of school mergers, my alter ego was “promoted” to oversight of recording achievement.

    He was told that the process of recording “achievement” would be computerised and all statements had to be positive.

    This meant drafting, agreeing and approving definitions for ten levels of progressive “achievement” for each “attainment target” for each and every school subject across five years of secondary education. All to be “personalised” from the original boiler-plate by drop-in first-names and gender-specific pronouns.

    In due course the “record of personal achievement” was sent out as the half-yearly report to parents. Typically it ran to over a score of closely-printed pages of database-ese. Since, in the first year of operation that meant 1500 students over three sites, several Scandinavian forests were consumed in the effort.

    And every school was at it.

    Parents evenings then ensued. The inevitable first questions were “What’s this mean?”; “Is he/she doing all right?”

    At the other end of the scale, I went into my first job in a boys’ grammar in the 1960s. The place was full of highly-intelligent deviants and disruptives. And that was just the staff-room (all of but two of whom had experience from war-service or conscription of being highly-intelligently deviant and disruptive). At the end of the school year, a report book went the rounds of the subject staff, and the student was “Satisfactory” in every respect for every subject. There were even a few appended helpful hints for future improvement. The Headteacher signed it off, again with an anodyne comment. We never found out who concocted this totally-fictitious student.

  • Essentialist

    Despite the best efforts of Caitriona Ruane on the BBC Newsline report it is clear that the Pupil Profile is dead. No further effort to rehabilitate Gavin Boyd’s failed initiative will convince parents of any remaining value. The Pupil Profile was used to move away from quantitative recording of pupil’s knowledge as part of the Gavin Boyd led revised curriculum project. The curriculum was the Trojan horse and it worked on the DUP. Their rejection of the pupil profile equates to rejection of the revised curriculum. It is now time for the DUP to call for the entire revised curriculum to be withdrawn leaving teachers to deliver traditional teaching of subjects related to a traditional curriculum.

    Who will loose out if the revised curriculum is withdrawn? No one except those associated with the privatisation of CCEA and growth of ESA started under the direction of Gavin Boyd. The rise and fall of the CCEA empire under Gavin Boyd’s failed leadership can be traced and measured by critical examination of his handling of the enriched curriculum project, the pupil profile, Incas, use of QUB & BDO Hayward evaluations (link with former employees) and the revised curriculum.

    The support by the DUP for ESA will become an electoral issue given their promises about saving academic selection and grammar schools.

    The two matters are incompatible. Support for the continued use of the Annual Report/Pupil Profile/Incas assessment is unsustainable.

    When will the accountability spotlight be turned on Gavin Boyd? Someone should put that question to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

    I doubt there will be much chuckling then.

  • Driftwood

    What are Incas? And if we are retaining the annual school report, which most people presumed still existed, what is all this pupil profile nonsense about? I assume the taxpayer didn’t contribute to this guff!
    I get the feeling that the waste of millions of pounds is about to be buried here, with a shhh! You’ll never find out who is accountable anyway.

  • I’m told on another thread that I’m guilty of narcissistic subversion of topics. Still, I’ll take a chance on this one.

    Yesterday the Washington Post ran a story that one school district was ending the identification of “talented and gifted” students.

    This provides another issue in reporting attainment:

    Two-fifths of Montgomery students are considered gifted on the basis of aptitude tests, schoolwork, expert opinion and parents’ wishes. Officials say the approach slights the rest of the students who are not so labeled. White and Asian American students are twice as likely as blacks and Hispanics to be identified as gifted.

    School system leaders say losing the label won’t change gifted instruction, because it is open to all students. But this is Montgomery, where schools are known more for SAT composites than football records and where most, if not all, children are thought by parents to be above average. To some parents, any whiff of retreat from a tangible commitment to gifted education is cause for concern.

    Now we see the link to the “keep the grammar schools” argument. It’s not about the content, or even the methodology — it’s the social status and kudos: “my kid’s passed the 11+” and the “talented and gifted” bumper sticker are out of the same box.

    Which is why, ultimately, the majority (and they must be a majority) of “non-gifted” (read “rejected”) parents turn away from the selection model. In the England of the 1960s-70s, the greatest proponents of comprehensives were middle-class, naturally Tory, parents, who did not want their children consigned to Sec Mods. There must be a PhD thesis in there somewhere, explaining why the same thing didn’t happen in NI.

    Now, it is too late. Hooray, then, for Essentialist @ 08:43 PM who hits the button by trying to turn back the clock by “leaving teachers to deliver traditional teaching of subjects related to a traditional curriculum”. That is why I found a crumb of comfort in Ed Balls advocating the return to the old “areas of experience” (though, lamentably, under poncey titles).

    So then we are back to assessment and reporting. We certainly don’t want the semi-annual testing regime that SATS and the rest imply. Nor do we want the kind of “tick-the-box” stuff that I described in my previous posting here. The best report I can possibly conceive is an A5 framed page, into which a literate and sympathetic teacher writes a description of the student’s performance, achievements and continuing needs. That, of course, is as unfashionable as Essentialist‘s commonsense. After all, it cannot be reduced to a computer database or matrix. And, I fear, there are not enough literate teachers left.

    That Washington Post article finishes with a vignette, amply illustrating the real learning process:

    Georgian Forest is one of two Montgomery schools that have quietly ditched gifted identification as an experiment. No one at that school or at Burning Tree Elementary in Bethesda is labeled gifted. Principals and teachers say they don’t miss it.

    In a classroom at Georgian Forest one morning this month, a group of fourth-graders attempted sixth-grade math: If one-quarter cup of sugar makes one glass of iced tea, how many glasses would 3 1/2 make?

    “Are you supposed to multiply?” a girl asked three classmates. “I think you divide, actually,” a boy replied. “Okay, what’s the strategy, guys?” another girl interjected. Moments later, they had the answer: 14.

    I trust I was vaguely on topic here, avoiding narcissism and subversion. If not, ignore.

  • Driftwood

    Why not do away with Oxbridge and make everyone get a 2:1 in combined media studies and Applied hairdressing at the University of North Belfast . This elitist mentality of merit is outrageous.
    Before long you will have students studying ‘traditional’ neo fascist subjects like Physics and Chemistry!! Just like Professor Von Braun!
    Students should not have to follow the Tory/Nazi mindset of learning basic English, Science and Maths. We now have Catriona Ruane in charge.
    Irish, Jade Goody and the X factor are what the market wants. And that’s what we are getting, Malcolm. The future is unwritten.

  • Chris Donnelly

    This whole Pupil Profile/ Annual Report story has been blown considerably out of proportion by the media today.

    I attended a CCEA briefing outlining the changes from the Profile- and the Windscale/ Long Kesh title change- several weeks ago, and there was little disagreement from the assembled Principals, particularly regarding the reversion to Annual Report title.

    The format of the Pupil Profile will remain virtually intact as the template used last May/June, albeit under a new banner headline of Annual Report.

    Regarding the Pupil Profiles, there are a number of factors which annoyed teachers/ parents.

    Firstly, the absolutely useless Report Writer software recommended by CCEA- but NOT statutory last year, a point apparently lost throughout the day’s reporting- could only be accessed within school, meaning writing reports from home became impossible.

    Most school Principals had the sense to ditch the software last year and not waste any money employing subs to free up staff to write reports during school time- not least because, I repeat, the software was completely optional. Those that didn’t should be asked questions regarding waste of financial resources…

    Secondly, the ‘confusion’ attributed to parents emanates from the inclusion in the new Profile/ Report of the new curricular areas- PDMU (Personal Development/ Mutual Understanding) and TSPC (Thinking Skills/ Personal Capabilities) which had to be reported on for the first time.

    Given that these were ‘new’ areas, the Report Writer software (if I’m not mistaken, called Profiles 7) was used by most teachers to get a line on the two new areas- Profiles 7 offered a comment bank for the new areas.

    Incidentally, the fact that all of the suggested comments in the comment bank were positive was also widely criticised by many teachers. Apparently, those behind the software didn’t believe critical comment should form a part of any Report.

    Regardless of the format or heading, the reporting of these new curricular areas will remain a source of confusion for many years, until parents and teachers simply get used to it.

    Oh, and let me be the first to express my loathing of the ‘World Around Us’ curricular area, with all it entails for the demotion of science, history and geography….

    The inclusion of test scores is also not new- albeit scores from school tests, as opposed to tests used ‘nationally.’ Whilst I know many schools which included class/ year test scores in their reports last year, none I know of incorporated scores from the initial INCAs (P5) nor Standardised tests.

    I wouldn’t get worked up about ‘rejection’ of the PP being tantamount to rejection of the revised curriculum- that’s simply untrue.

    I do, however, share many of the reservations you express regarding the drift in education here…

  • willis
  • DC

    “I do, however, share many of the reservations you express regarding the drift in education here…”

    Well you can share some of the blame!

  • Essentialist

    Found this (forced down my throat) a lot more local. Willis is a naughty boy.


    CCEA briefing against 11-plus while collecting revenue for administering the transfer test. – that explains a lot.

    Early Years Enriched Curriculum. Unethical experiment on the Shankill poor children and funded by CCEA. Results misrepresented but nevertheless made statutory. CCEA – that explains a lot.

    Pupil Profile project failure -CCEA – that explains a lot.

    Invalid Incas computer assessment project – CCEA – that explains a lot.

    I’m sure Gavin Boyd the former chief executive will explain a lot if he is ever brought before the Assembly or the NIAO to explain his failures at CCEA. Of course that won’t happen since he is now the supremo over all education matters under the control of ESA.

    Has anyone else noticed that a public sector body, CCEA (quango) has been growing in staff numbers, annual expenditure and has its own public relations and press staff? CCEA is acting like it was a private enterprise . Instead of risking and using its own money CCEA has grown massively under Boyd. It employs expensive external evaluators (e.g.BDO Stoy Hayward) to produce reports which are then described as “commercial in confidence” restricting access and use.

    The lack of investigative journalism on this matter raises serious questions about the role of the local media.

    Willis tries to divert attention elsewhere. Better he stayed close to home and applied a few smell tests on CCEA.

  • Essentialist

    A quote from a teacher cited in the BDO Stoy Hayward Report on Incas

    “If I’m going to be honest, I don’t really see the meaningfulness of the current system for the teacher or the parent. The tests are taken at the start of the year when pupils are just back from their holidays and the results are reported some nine months later.
    Surely this is confusing for the parent as it doesn’t show how their child has developed through the course of the year.”

    Teachers focus group attendee.

    If this is the best they can come up with little wonder the project is doomed.

    That will be £12.99 please.

  • Essentialist

    Fill your boots on Caitriona’s Pupil Profile/Incas Assessment reports.
    Now principals and teachers have been fully aware of this for a long time yet not one cheep from them. Why the silence?

    In case Santa doesn’t bring you a better read.


    Saving the best for last.
    Exactly what is a developed ability and how is it measured?


  • Chris Donnelly

    “The tests are taken at the start of the year when pupils are just back from their holidays and the results are reported some nine months later.”


    Err, I think that ‘teacher’ has a few issues to sort out regarding knowledge of time.

    The INCA tests are taken in most schools in October and it is statutory from this year to report on those tests to parents by the end of the first term.

    In most schools, this ‘reporting’ takes the form of the annual parent interview, which makes sense as it allows teachers to plan lessons in full knowledge of pupil strengths and weaknesses as identified in the INCAs (though I must confess to not being entirely satisfied with the quality of feedback available- ALTA-Systems provided much more detailed diagnostic feedback.)

    I know of other schools where the test scores in General Maths and Reading were sent out to parents immediately after testing, either in Year: Month age equivalent form or standardised form.
    The Annual Report (Pupil Profile RIP) is a summative assessment of progress that year.

  • willis

    Stephen Stephen

    It is great that I seem to get you so worked up. To be honest your contributions to this thread have been very helpful.

    “Has anyone else noticed that a public sector body, CCEA (quango) has been growing in staff numbers, annual expenditure and has its own public relations and press staff? CCEA is acting like it was a private enterprise . Instead of risking and using its own money CCEA has grown massively under Boyd. It employs expensive external evaluators (e.g.BDO Stoy Hayward) to produce reports which are then described as “commercial in confidence” restricting access and use.

    The lack of investigative journalism on this matter raises serious questions about the role of the local media.”

    Absolutely right!

    How well do you get on with Kathryn Torney? Maybe she can help but I wouldn’t expect much investigative journalism from the Bele Tele.

    Maybe you should have joined me for the protest at UTV.

  • Essentialist

    Belfast Telegraph Education correspondent? for whom? Certainly not parental interests.

    Kathryn Torney’s work speaks volumes.

    It is fair to say she simply represents and replicates the views by extension of the DENI, CCEA and teaching union PR machines. The GBA also get a look in via connections to a former editor. Note how quiet the GBA/AQE are at the moment?

    The pressing questions currently are:
    * When did the DUP and Mervyn Storey adopt CAT as their preferred method of testing in schools?

    * With whom are the trials and validation work being carried out?

    * Which testing experts did the DUP consult recently prior to adopting this CAT position.

    * How much do the DUP estimate it will cost?

    * When did they share this information with the DENI and their close friend, Caitriona?

    * Why is this news reported via Kathryn Torney and the Belfast Telegraph and not via the DUP website?

    Have the DUP stopped negotiating with Sinn Fein on education matters or are they preparing for yet another sell out?

  • Essentialist

    Chris Donnelly

    Are you suggesting that the BDO Stoy Hayward report is in some way flawed or biased?

    Surely not?

    Gavin Boyd does not make mistakes, particularly in choosing which former employees to work with. Just ask him about the Early Years Enriched Curriculum Project results. He can be contacted at ESA headquarters. Simply Google ESA, a la Willis.

    Just received a notice about parents meeting in the New Year. “parents must strictly adhere to the five minute rule for interviews”

    Just about enough time to screw the pupil profile/annual report into a ball and throw it into the school’s environment-eco friendy recycling bin. The pupils will be discussing the cross curricular theme next term.
    Sammy Wilson will feature in his crossing role as former chair of the education committee and Minister for the Environment. Isn’t the revised curriculum just special Chris?

  • Essentialist

    Check out the Parents leaflet prepared by CCEA. Read the section on page 2 left column.
    It clearly states that the Annual Report is the Pupil Profile.


    Incas will be replaced by Computer Adaptive Testing according to the DUP chair of the Education Committee.

    Surely it would be much simpler just to sack gavin Boyd and revert to the 11-plus?

    Pupil Profile abandoned? Methinks not.

    The entire revised curriculum must be jetisoned in order to restore sanity to the education system