No, it isn’t. And as chance would have it I happen to belong to what they call support staff in a school. So, let me stand up for my colleagues, whether members of the teaching personnel or part of the work force that deals with vulnerable children and/or parents.
The latest lashing to leave an unwanted welt on the already swollen and bruised body of the teaching profession was given by none other than Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief inspector. He reckons that pupils in comprehensive schools are not being challenged enough. For those who, like me, still struggle to understand the British education system, a comprehensive is a non-selective secondary school that provides an entitlement curriculum. It offers a wider range of subjects including vocational ones. The figure quoted by Michael Wilshaw this week in an interview on Radio 4 was 65%. That is approximately the percentage of pupils who fall way below the target they were set when they began their Year 7. To clarify matters more, a student labelled as “most able”, the category to which Mr Wilshaw referred, is the one who achieves a level 5 or above for both reading and maths in his/her Sats test at eleven years old. That is where the problem lies, in my opinion.
If I were to use my experience of education in Cuba when I was growing up, my conclusion would be that exams in primary school serve no purpose and cause unwanted – and unforeseen at the time of planning such exams – problems. And I write as someone who sat exams from Year 1 (or 1st Grade as others might know it) all the way through to Year 12 in college (or high school). Of course, I also had tests in university. Sometimes, when I look back on my student days all I remember is half-term tests and final exams.
|Great formation, but is it good education?|
Don’t they ever learn? Politicians, I mean? Especially those, like Mr Gove, with no classroom experience whatsoever? The current GCSE uses methods which, although still flawed, give a more realistic picture of where the student sits in the academic spectrum. Bringing back the traditional exam where students will sit silently in three or four rows and sweat it out for a couple of hours will backfire. For starters, that was the type of test I had to sit when I was younger and I always used to hit the books a couple of days before. So, no deep thinking and reasoning there. Secondly, it will affect the learning experience in the classroom (and there was silly me thinking that Mr Gove wanted to improve teaching, not ruin it), because teachers will be teaching with one thought in mind: out of these thirty souls, I need to have at least a good 70 or 75% passing rate. Because who would, in her/his right mind would like to offend Sir Michael (Wilshaw) with his 65%? And whilst we are on this 65% figure, would it also be possible to find out how many students who move up to secondary school without the required Level 4 go on to achieve good GCSE grades, please? Because that would be a good indicator of how good these students' teachers have been in working closely with them in order to bring them up to scratch. But then that wouldn't make good headlines. "Teachers in the UK are doing a good job! They are raising standards!" No, it's not a good headline. The other unwanted consequence of the 65% quote is that it cause a schism to appear between primary and secondary schools where the latter blame the former for not giving pupils the necessary academic foundation they will need later on. Primaries could well retort that in the case of "most able" children who then fail to get good GCSEs it's secondaries' fault for not working hard enough with students who already have had a good headstart. It would be like a never-ending cycle in which no one wins and the only loser is the students. Our children. Your children. Tomorrow's adults.
Is that the type of education we want? I work with professionals who love teaching and working with children. They motivate them, guide them, and mentor them. Yes, you get the occasional bad apple in the bag that spoils the reputation of the others. But isn’t that the same with almost any other profession? I have never met a parent in my line of work who hasn’t wanted her/his child to do well. Never. Maybe they don’t know how to go about it, or perhaps they had a traumatic experience in school. Yet, parents ALWAYS want their children to do well.
If I have an advice for Gove and co. is: find out what it is that makes some people go into education. Is it the money? Is it the holidays? It could be for some, I am not saying it is not. But the majority of education professionals I have met in my life (and I have met more than Gove surely has. I WAS ONCE A PROPER TEACHER!) seriously believe that they have the capacity to teach the next generation. They trust their abilities and life experience to educate children regardless of background, race or nationality or anything else. They are not perfect; they are human and make mistakes as a result. But I don’t think I am alone in thinking that they would welcome more praise than condemnation, especially from those who should be supportive. If, however, Gove and Wilshaw can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the excellent teaching that exists in this country, then, maybe a reworking of Pink Floyd’s famous Another Brick on the Wall will have to do the trick: We don’t need no confrontation/We don’t need no Gove control/Your dark sarcasm is not wanted/Michaels, leave teachers alone/Hey! Michaels, leave teachers alone/Otherwise we will put you both up against the wall/ Otherwise we will put you both up against the wall. Sometimes punch bags need to talk back, don’t you think?
Image taken from thetimes.co.uk
Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 19th June at 11:59 (GMT)