‘The most tested gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren in his­tory’

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Head Speaks Out -

GCSE results day is when the na­tion ‘cel­e­brates’ that its chil­dren who have gifts that are aca­demic ‘do bet­ter’ than its chil­dren whose gifts are not.

In Kent this means gram­mar schools who se­lect stu­dents who will do well in aca­demic ex­ams will record higher at­tain­ment than non-se­lec­tive schools who do not.

The Can­ter­bury High School has done well this year and re­in­forces this sim­ple point. Five years ago Can­ter­bury High part­nered with Si­mon Lang­ton Gram­mar School for Boys and so can pro­duce data for Can­ter­bury High’s gram­mar school stream.

Those stu­dents in its gram­mar stream have at­tained more highly than those who are not. In­so­far as com­par­isons can be made with pre­vi­ous years, 100% at­tained the old bench­mark mea­sure with some at­tain­ing the high­est grades and the high­est lev­els. So, stu­dents do not need to go to gram­mar schools to get the high­est grades.

For as long as I can re­mem­ber schools have been ex­pected to drive up ex­am­i­na­tion results. If they did not then they were in some way fail­ing but if they did it was ar­gued to be a re­sult of ex­am­i­na­tions be­com­ing too easy. Mr Gove led the charge to in­crease aca­demic rigour, bring sim­plic­ity and cre­ate trans­parency.

So as well as cel­e­brat­ing the suc­cesses of all stu­dents this year we should prob­a­bly have some sym­pa­thy for them.

This is the most tested gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren in his­tory and it is get­ting worse.

Schools have been driven back to a rigid, overly aca­demic ‘one size fits all’ cur­ricu­lum with tra­di­tional ex­am­i­na­tions that are, in many cases, lit­tle more than glo­ri­fied mem­ory tests.

If schools do not de­liver their ‘re­quired’ eight GCSES then their points score and league ta­ble po­si­tion are detri­men­tally af­fected. As a con­se­quence, vul­ner­a­ble learn­ers have been marginalised and out-of-hours ac­tiv­i­ties re­duced in favour of ‘cram­ming’.

More­over, the prac­ti­cal, cre­ative, artis­tic, aes­thetic, mu­si­cal, vo­ca­tional, en­tre­pre­neur­ial and imag­i­na­tive sub­jects are un­der­val­ued and have pro­gres­sively dis­ap­peared.

‘In­creased aca­demic rigour’ meant chang­ing cour­ses half way through, for­bid­ding cer­tain com­bi­na­tions of cour­ses, re­mov­ing course­work, in­tro­duc­ing a ridicu­lous amount of tra­di­tional test­ing, rush­ing changes through, in­creas­ing the con­tent in the new GCSES and A-lev­els, declar­ing that they were to be made more dif­fi­cult and chang­ing not just the way schools were held to ac­count but also how GCSES were scored.

The im­per­fect and sim­ple sys­tem ( five A*-CS in­clud­ing maths and English) which most peo­ple did un­der­stand was re­placed by an im­per­fect and com­plex sys­tem (ba­sics, Ebacc, At­tain­ment 8, Progress 8 and des­ti­na­tions) which most peo­ple don’t. This, too, ap­pears com­pro­mised as the im­pli­ca­tions of the change to GCSE grad­ing are re­alised.

Stu­dents will still re­ceive GCSE grades on an eight-point al­pha­bet­i­cal scale, A* through to G.

A Grade C was deemed a good pass and so by im­pli­ca­tion any­thing above it was a bet­ter pass and any­thing be­low it wasn’t. How­ever, this year maths, English and English lit­er­a­ture will be graded nu­mer­i­cally on a nine-point scale, 9-1.

So stu­dents will get en­velopes which tell them what nu­mer­i­cal level they have reached in maths and English (with­out be­ing clear what this ac­tu­ally means) and what al­pha­bet­i­cal grade they have got in other GCSES. Con­fus­ingly, level 4 is re­garded as a ‘stan­dard’ pass and level 5 is deemed a ‘strong’ pass. There­fore, by im­pli­ca­tion grades 3-1 are ‘sub­stan­dard’ and any­thing above a 5 is, pre­sum­ably, ‘stronger’, ‘very strong’, ‘as­ton­ish­ingly strong’ and ‘pos­i­tively Her­culean’.

Even more per­plex­ing are the re­ports that grade bound­aries have been al­tered to en­sure stu­dents are not un­fairly pe­nalised by these changes or, more cyn­i­cally, to avoid head­lines re­port­ing a cat­a­strophic drop in ‘stan­dards’.

So, schools can now ‘spin’ var­i­ous fig­ures based upon ‘ba­sics’, Ebacc, at­tain­ment 8 and Progress 8 us­ing ‘good’, ‘stan­dard’ and ‘strong’ passes to achieve the most favourable com­ment in the press.

It is un­clear what chil­dren and par­ents will make of all this. It is un­clear what these lev­els will mean with re­gard to Progress 8. It is un­clear what they will mean with re­gard to pro­gress­ing into the sixth form. It is un­clear what Of­sted will make of any of it. It is un­clear what it means in terms of univer­sity ap­pli­ca­tions. It is un­clear what it means with re­gard to ap­pren­tice­ships and em­ploy­ment.

I hope that all stu­dents were pleased with what they achieved this sum­mer. I also hope that they re­alise that their achieve­ments, and the achieve­ments of oth­ers, can come in many, many forms.

Ex­am­i­na­tions are part of what schools do but they should not be all that schools fo­cus upon. Results are what stu­dents get but they do not de­fine who stu­dents are. Ed­u­ca­tion should value each in­di­vid­ual and not de­gen­er­ate into sta­tis­ti­cal sim­plic­ity and du­bi­ous com­par­isons to na­tional av­er­ages.

Mr Gove once fa­mously opined that the na­tion had ‘had enough of ex­perts’. Per­haps the na­tion can agree that it has had enough of politi­cians con­stantly chang­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem based upon their own ex­pe­ri­ences in an at­tempt to recre­ate that which suited them when they were at school. In fact, ed­u­ca­tion would ben­e­fit from not be­ing a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball, as that way it could bet­ter serve all of our chil­dren with all of their skills, tal­ents, ap­ti­tudes and abil­i­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.