Monday, 8 February 2016

Teachers can`t win!

Teachers can`t win; when they work so hard to improve examination results, Tory "experts" like Michael Gove and ex-corporation lawyer, Nicky Morgan, judge the exams as "too easy", but instead of changing mark schemes, they change the whole assessment process, and get rid of AS levels.
       Now universities have nothing to guide them in their selection of future undergraduates other than teachers judgements, so what happens? Ucas complain that "teachers are deliberately boosting predicted grades to get pupils into top universities" (We do inflate predicted A-level grades, admit teachers,05/02/16).
   Imagine the fuss from parents and universities if teachers predicted A-level grades according to the effort pupils make normally! They would be rightly criticised for lacking aspiration, and for not motivating their students. Of course, teachers have to base their decision on the grades pupils could get if they "worked flat out", which most sixth formers do in the months leading up to A-level examinations.
      If decisions relating to assessment were not taken by politicians but by expert and experienced teachers and examiners, the AS levels would still exist, and universities could be guided accordingly. Oh, but what would then have happened? Assessment, because it would be fairer, would not work against students from less fortunate backgrounds, and results would improve. Whenever results in state schools improve, Tories make changes; they don`t appear to like it when results in the public sector match those in private education! Equality of opportunity is not a Tory principle; remember what happened to the Education Maintenance Grant, weeks after Gove`s appointment?

With over forty years of teaching in the state sector, and seven years as a pupil in an awful grammar school, I regard myself in an excellent position to agree with Ralph Lucas, of the Good Schools Guide, that "overall, state schools have never been better" (Soaring state schools threaten private sector,06/02/16). What is annoying, however, is firstly, that the Department for Education predictably and ridiculously sees the improvement as a result of its "commitment to social justice and fairness", when it`s clear that the progress has been made despite government initiatives.
        Equally irritating is the rush to attribute all improvements to "the new model of headteacher in the state sector". Whilst it is true that good leadership in all schools is essential before advances can be made, it is also evident that without the efforts and commitment of hard-working teachers, none of these improvements would have taken place. The government won`t admit this, of course, because it would make their policy of freezing teachers` pay appear even more petty. This does not excuse the majority of the media which seems determined to minimise the important role played by the classroom teacher.

     Constant criticism of the teaching profession from recent secretaries of state, coupled with broken promises not to introduce new initiatives in term time (So much for the election promise not to introduce primary reforms mid-year,26/01/16), as well as the threat of an unfair and inaccurate judgements by Ofsted inspectors, have all made the job more difficult, with no sign of improvement. Until the government deals with teachers` pay and workload problems, the recruitment crisis will continue, and remarks from DfE spokespersons about government policies "achieving educational excellence for everyone, everywhere, regardless of their background" will continue to beggar belief. 

What a shame, and indeed, an indictment of current education thinking, that the chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, thinks that "giving a grammar school education to the top 20%" would be an "economic disaster" (Grammar system would be "economic suicide", 30/01/16). He says that because "the economy is now so different" from when grammar schools dominated the secondary sector, he is against a selective education system, as if the state of the country`s economy was the most important determinant.
  The fact that such a system is totally unfair, and results in 80% of the children getting an inferior education, simply on the basis of an unreliable test, which ignores totally both the pupils` potential and background, seems to have been relegated below the importance of the economic needs of the country. At least, Wilshaw does admit that comprehensive education "can work", but only if schools have "great leadership". One would expect that the Ofsted chief would have realised by now that no headteacher can improve the quality of education in a school without the support of dedicated and under-paid, hard-working teachers. Failure by Wilshaw, and recent secretaries of state, to acknowledge the wonderful work done by the vast majority of teachers is contributing to massive recruitment problems, which will in the long run lead to the two-tiered system he purports to be against. 

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