Forced resits risk slamming the door to further learning
I WENT to a good school. An expensive independent school, fiercely competitive with a reputation for academic excellence and all the classroom resources that money could buy. My state-funded assisted place gave me the opportunity to enter a world of privilege that I otherwise wouldn’t have gained access to.
Despite those advantages, I found that the school was not for me. Gradually, I rejected what it offered and gave up on the possibility that I could ever be a clever girl .Itwasa good school but I did not have a good education – my all-consuming social life and commitment to laziness admittedly played a part in that.
Decades after I left, I still felt like a thicko who probably shouldn’t be allowed near books. Even now that I’m dedicated to learning, that experience leaves an imprint of academic imposter syndrome and scholarly self-doubt. And my experience really wasn’t that bad.
It took me nearly 20 years to re-engage with learning. I’m lucky. I had support and encouragement to try again. Many people have such negative experiences of education that they would never consider returning.
A key reason I’m so opposed to the continuation of GCSE English and maths forced resits is the long-term impact on engagement in education. Shoving students into a qualification that they are nowhere near ready for can leave them with crumbling confidence. Repeated failure leaves them feeling like, guess what? A failure.
Fair enough, a few students may eventually gain the qualification the government prefers, but at what cost? Is it really worth damaging their perception of what education is and what it can be? Surely slamming the door to future learning is the opposite of the legacy that educators are aiming for?
I don’t know of anyone in FE who believes this one-size-fits-all route is a good idea. Big players from across the sector have voiced their opposition as have countless teachers – those with palpable sense of the damage that this poorly perceived policy does to our young people. The only ones who seem to be in favour of forced resits are the decision-making politicians, despite it countering the advice of colleagues throughout the sector, in addition to the clear evidence of rock bottom pass rates.
Why would they dig their heels in? Is it the fear of being seen to U-turn and allow students to be guided towards the most appropriate qualification for them? Is it the mistaken suggestion that a functional skill qualification equals “watering down”?
Being a politician is a tough job. Placing yourself in a position of scrutiny is a huge price to pay if your heart’s not in it. Why would anyone choose to do that unless their motivations were – at least at the beginning – full of integrity for what is right, or at least for what they believe is right? I believe that most politicians go into the game to make things better.
I’m trying not to lose hope in our government. But this decision, which seems almost punitive to those who struggle with their English and maths, is beyond baffling.
Sarah Simons works in colleges in the East Midlands and is the director of Ukfechat. She tweets @Mrssarahsimons