When Maths and English students have been endlessly pulled out of other classes to to extra revision sessions , when SLT talk about Key Marginals ,when pupils have been forced to sit 2 different syllabus for English, when they have had to endless re-sits for maths we have always been told it is all for the benefit of the individual students and not at all all about improving the school’s 5 A*-C (including English and Maths) or lining someone’s CV with positive looking statistics.
But now Michael Gove wants only the first attempt at a GCSE by a pupil to count toward the whole school’s figures and their position on the league tables and the leader of the ASCL says “It is grossly unfair to make changes like this when courses are already under way.”. Instead of cheering the lifting of endless exams from the shoulders of 15 year olds, Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders seems to be complaining that schools have been caught cheating the system. And by moaning in such a way it becomes abundantly clear that all that force feeding and cramming was never really for the students’ benefit after all.
and what do you know? I am agreeing for the very first time with the Secretary of State for Education, The Right Honourable Michael Gove and agreeing wholeheartedly
I remember the days when the local paper would run a 4 page pull out advertising feature on private schools in the area. You could peruse which one had photos showing the most wholesome looking 10-year-old violin players or the happiest looking 13 year olds in boaters smiling out at you. And with each ad was the date of their open day. “Give us a few thousand every term and we will protect your offspring from having to mix with pupils who didn’t have their mild dyslexia certified by a private consultant.” was the unspoken deal.
You could easily understand why St Blazer-on-the-Wold prep school had to advertise; they were a business, they needed more bums on seats, they weren’t protected by the cushion of an LEA. It was business folks. What else did you expect?
But slowly and surely with the cushion withdrawn and Head Teachers wanting to prove themselves both on the OFSTED report as well as with numbers on roll, more and more emphasis is being put on state schools and their marketing arm “Best results ever” hangs the banner over the reception block at the front of school”. The Deputy head is desperately trying to contact the picture editor on the erstwhile local rag. He wants to ensure the picture that goes into the GCSE exam result article isn’t the one that includes the boy who dyed his hair purple. Local demographics are closely studied to see how future numbers might be rising or, heaven forbid, falling.
While inside school meetings, the Head is talking about our “competitor” schools and cursing that the comprehensive on the edge of town has managed to lift up its pass rate to within a few percentage points of his own. He stands up in front of the staff and talks about key marginals, before having to explain to confused teachers this is the new term for C/D borderlines. “Aren’t we supposed to be moving away from focusing on such a niche group?” asks the Head of Science. “If bloody New Suburbs Academy can get 68%, then so can we. And if we don’t push the D kids then parents will choose the other school, not us and all your jobs will be on the line.”
So, once more, the majority of pupils are ignored in favour of whole school figures. And extra cash is spent on flashier display cabinets, lighting and paintwork in reception, rather than on anything for a classroom. Two of the smoother skinned and slimmer y10 female pupils are called out of lessons when the professional photographer comes round (“Do you play the viola? No? Ah well could you hold one anyway and stand under that chestnut tree while I take the shots? There’s a dear”) And the local paper gleefully rubs its hands as more of the academy budget is siphoned off to pay for a half page spread in the local state schools 4 page pull out advertising feature.
At this time of year it is key that I blog because it helps put off actually having to work and prepare some lessons, write out class lists and change around my classroom displays