After a weekend of alleged u-turns that prove that you should always read the small print, and a week of teachers reporting on the continuing farce that are this year’s SATs, it feels good to remember what and who matters in education. Have we reached the tipping point of what we will sacrifice for good results? Have our politicians ever been so out of touch with what the profession wants and needs?
The sounds of teachers’ heads being banged repeatedly against the wall echoed across Twitter as it dawned upon teachers that the u-turn was only a mirage. “At a time when the DfE seems barely able to successfully navigate a revolving door, and both financial and recruitment crises are descending upon our schools, they are nevertheless willing to expend remarkable political capital to transfer all schools to private hands.”
Dis Idealist ridicules the idea that the government has made a “u-turn” and instead presents the case for it being viewed as a tactical retreat. “In other words, the DfE will no longer force 20,000 schools to individually convert to academy status, but will instead force their conversions an LEA-sized block at a time.”
Brian Walton reveals the desolation and despair he feels being on the receiving end of it all.
“There is little joy in the role of headteacher right now. I cannot remember a time in my career (20 years) where I have felt so disillusioned, so angry or so disappointed. I have never spent so much time on issues that are not directly about teaching and learning (but are so destructive to a school ethos and the hope that is central to running a good school community). I have never felt so isolated (even when surrounded by so many good people).”
Every Child Matters has never felt as distant as it has this week. A week ago I tweeted “if all schools are academies, what happens to the children no chain wants?”; immediately it prompted more than 57 retweets. This blog by Jordy Jax articulates that growing sense of unease as principles are stretched and different teachers, governors and politicians whisper their discomfort.
“Which children do we ‘include’ in this category? Children with autism, who have sensory issues and often lash out when they are ‘overloaded’? Children with Down’s syndrome who on occasion display challenging behaviour? Children with medical conditions such as ADHD who struggle with a chemical imbalance? Children with mental health issues? Children with severe attachment who have often been removed from their parents by social care? Children who have PTSD after witnessing domestic violence in the home? Children who are/have been sexually abused? The list goes on!! And guess what?? Children in most of these categories are sitting in our PRU! Permanently excluded!. Headteachers are under pressure as never before to deliver ‘results’ and children with poor behaviour disrupt this process.”
As teachers vented their anger on Twitter and parents shared pictures of anxious children on Facebook, there was no escaping that this year’s SATs felt more pressurised.
Here Bishton reports the impact on her child and whether there is a link between increased pressure on schools to get results and children’s mental health. “It is tempting to accuse the government of caring only about exam results and not about the wellbeing of the pupils concerned – that is, to have no capacity or interest in assessing the impact of the processes used to achieve that goal on pupils’ emotional and psychological health. But it could be more accident than design.
“Some schools have pupil wellbeing firmly on their agenda, provide support in-house and make such links as far as is possible given the constraints on services … But other schools don’t, because they are too fearful of failing to comply with the government requirement that test results go up … Schools with results above the required level have a bit of breathing space. Schools with falling results – or even results which stay fairly constant – have no room whatsoever. And the consequence? Often, sadly, a relentless focus on tests and testing at the exclusion of creative arts, sporting activities – and crucially, support services for pupils who are struggling.”