The story of the teaching of English over the last twenty years is one in which coherency and common sense have lost out to the monolithic pressures of assessment.

Don Skooling's picture
 6
Having taught in comprehensive schools throughout South Yorkshire, I left teaching in 2002 to work for a local authority. I became an independent consultant in 2007. My experiences over the last ten years or so have sadly confirmed my headline to this story: an assessment-driven curriculum has distorted the teaching of English in secondary schools. How has it done this? Assessment objectives have changed native learning about language so that many students now feel alienated from their own language inheritance. Common sense and experience tell us that speaking, listening, reading, writing are all interlinked modes of language. Prior to writing, I will have had conversations, arguments; I will have listened; I will have tried out my thinking in words; I will have revised and amended my ideas through hearing them played out aloud to others. Reading similarly is linked to writing: good writers are good readers and vice versa. Yet, the English secondary curriculum is divided into separate parts which are separately assessed. And then there is the remorseless targeting of pupils on the GCSE C/D borderline so that their learning entitlement is reduced to whatever is necessary to getting that all-important C grade.
Share on Twitter

Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 02/10/2011 - 16:51

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned in its Economic Survey 2011 UK that there was too much emphasis on raw grades in the English examination system and this risked neglecting other important skills, teaching to the test and "gaming". What is going on is not education but training in how to hit a particular target - that is the debased goal when it should be enrichment.

JimC's picture
Mon, 03/10/2011 - 05:21

I would agree with the OECD's observations here. The problem I have is that the LSN frequently point to rising academic outcomes in state schools as evidence that state schooling is improving or is better than private provision.

You can't have it both ways - are students getting smarter and teachers getting better every year or are schools teaching to the test and gaming the system?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 03/10/2011 - 12:48

I'm going to be a bit controversial here and suggest that you can have it both ways. Or that you will be able to soon...

What you need is a clear vision of both aspirations of education - the acquisition and the development of the common core of established skills AND the development of the wider personal skills of the individual - and a sophisticated broadband based infrastructure which actively facilitates this duality while
- supporting the integration of the thinking and efforts of all stakeholders concerned with the education of the individual,
- linking to and being directly populated by individualised online learning system and
- leading directly to accredited low stakes accreditation of progress.

There's nothing wrong with students striving to achieve Cs at GCSE and their teachers helping them in that provided all the other important elements of their education are in place.

Right - got to go. Going to be late for the HSA meeting.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 03/10/2011 - 13:13

Academic outcomes have been rising in all English schools: state and independent. So grade inflation, if there is any, affects all schools. OECD point out that the rise in GCSE grades is not borne out by PISA results OECD Economic Survey 2011), and a Radio 4 "More or Less" programme two years ago found that there had been grade inflation at A level of up to two grades (follow link below for details and to listen to the programme, grade inflation is discussed about 20 minutes into the programme).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/more_or_less/8207622.stm

However, FullFact.org investigated grade inflation and found no conclusive evidence.

http://fullfact.org/blog/gcse_results_grade_inflation_facts_trends-2941

As to the question as to whether private schools are better than state schools I will, as usual, cite evidence from the OECD:

"On average across OECD countries, privately managed schools display a performance advantage of 30 score points on the PISA reading scale (in the United Kingdom even of 62 score points). However, once the socio-economic background of students and schools is accounted for, public [state-funded] schools come out with a slight advantage of 7 score points, on average across OECD countries (in the United Kingdom public [state funded] schools outscore privately managed schools by 20 score points once the socio-economic background is accounted for."

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/8/46624007.pdf

And OECD Education at a Glance 2011 (page 455) said the best-performing school systems are the most inclusive, neither separating their children academically or geographically.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf

JimC's picture
Wed, 05/10/2011 - 05:03

"I’m going to be a bit controversial here and suggest that you can have it both ways. Or that you will be able to soon…"

Being able to game the examination system undermines the statement 'our students are getting smarter every year'. It really isn't a good thing to have it both ways here.

"What you need is a clear vision of both aspirations of education – the acquisition and the development of the common core of established skills AND the development of the wider personal skills of the individual – and a sophisticated broadband based infrastructure which actively facilitates this duality while supporting the integration of the thinking and efforts of all stakeholders concerned with the education of the individual,"

This appears to be management speak with little substance.

"- linking to and being directly populated by individualised online learning system and
- leading directly to accredited low stakes accreditation of progress."

So lets get them on the computers all day then. What a vision!

JimC's picture
Wed, 05/10/2011 - 05:21

We're not talking about grade inflation we were talking about schools gaming the system.

In many schools I know of specialist subject curriculum time has been slashed and to fill timetables some teachers now deliver an ICT course (100% coursework) that is apparantly worth two GCSE grades compared with typical academic subjects (25% coursework). The ICT course involves sending e mails, searching the internet and creating a powerpoint.

This is what is meant by gaming the system.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.