The present system in England harms all pupils
There’s something in the air – and it’s not just too-early Christmas music. It’s the growing rumble from parents and teachers reclaiming education. Not for politicians; not for education providers smelling a profit; not for publishers of government-endorsed schemes of work.
It’s reclaiming education for pupils, students, learners of all ages and their teachers.
For too long politicians have set the education agenda. They’ve peddled misinformation and been criticised by the UK Statistics watchdog (first a polite reprimand; now a stinging blast). They’ve listened only to those who reinforce their prejudices. They’ve pushed their own solutions to a problem which didn’t even exist: the lie about England plummeting down global league tables since 2000.
At the same time, they’ve caused a school funding crisis; a recruitment and retention crisis; a crisis in the mental health of young people. The education system in England isn’t wholly responsible for the increased number of youngsters suffering mental health problems, of course. Social media plays a large part. But the extreme emphasis on test results in England filters through schools to their pupils and harms them.
I’ll be a ‘nothing’ if I fail SATs: Hannah, Year 6
The corrosive effect of end-of-primary tests was brought home to me at the ‘Reclaiming Education’ conference on Saturday 10 November. Professor Diane Reay, Cambridge University, grandparent and author of Miseducation, told us about Hannah, one of the hundreds of pupils interviewed for her book. Hannah said failing to do well in SATs would mean she would become a ‘nothing’, a no-hoper destined for the lowest-paid work.
Children should never be made to feel they are ‘nothings’
How often have politicians and others youngsters failing to achieve five ‘good’ GCSEs including maths and English were destined for a life of low wages and benefits? This implies such young people are ‘nothings’.
Is it any wonder that pupils who know they’re unlikely to achieve five golden grades are disillusioned? And when schools are judged on how many pupils gain ‘good’ grades, some schools resort to rejecting children they should be supporting.
Education in England should be for all pupils not just those able to achieve an ever-changing target (today’s GCSE 4 pass is likely to be tomorrow’s fail). It harms even those who can reach the mandatory measure. School children in England are under unreasonable pressure – no other country sets so many tests.
Too many tests.
Too many disappearing children.
Too little emphasis on understanding and analysis.
Too little attention on social and communication skills
It can’t go on. We are failing our children and young people. It’s time to ‘call out the instigators’, Debra Kidd writes:
‘It’s time to refocus on what’s important. To design curriculum that makes children think, feel and do. That shows them that life is complex, but also beautiful. That leads them through knowledge, yes, but also through inquiry and compassion.’
It’s time to ‘Raise our voices, loud and strong. Turn up the volume.’