It has been pointed out in other articles here how the recent GCSE fiasco creates a paradox for the government.
Put simply, the government wants the percentage of children achieving the highest grades to stop rising each year, something it has signalled to the exam boards if not directly instructing them. At the same time the government want the percentage of children achieving the highest grades in each school to go up. So, unless the schools already achieving a good number of A to Cs start doing less well, any increase will increase the numbers getting higher grades. There's the paradox.
But this confused thinking has been around for much longer than this summer. Take satisfactory schools for example. Maybe the new schedule means the judgements are moving away from their reliance on data, but as we all know, satisfactory no longer means satisfactory. It means not good enough. Only good or outstanding are satisfactory!
However, to be good or outstanding, schools have had to achieve above average results, either in attainment or progress. Now my year 6s could tell you that an average is a middle amount and that it is mathematically impossible for everyone to be above average. Unfortunately the government and Ofsted aren't quite as clever as my year 6s. We want all schools to be good they chorus, whilst following schedules that perversely work directly against this. An HMI told a head's conference I was at recently told us that many schools had moved from satisfactory to good in the last year. Then, under his breath, he muttered that a similar number had moved the other way because that's the way that norm referencing works.
The final paradox is the advice being given on how to spend the pupil premium. The newspapers were quick to condemn schools for not following the government's advice on the most effective ways to raise attainment as laid out by Durham University in their Pupil Premium Toolkit. Now put aside the fact that the top three strategies are in that position because they don't cost a great deal to implement and so are unlikely to be the main area of spending for schools. Even if they were, these strategies: effective feedback, meta-cognition and self regulations strategies and peer tutoring, are all actions that schools would implement for all children. My teachers are hardly going to differentiate the feedback they give, depending on whether a child falls into a particular category. 'Sorry dear, you're not pupil premium so I'm not going to tell you what you need to do to improve.'
The consequence of adopting these strategies would be that all pupils would improve. If all pupils improve then the gap the government rightly wants to close will remain: it's the way the maths works - another paradox.