Some have called this a pointless debate. I have referred to it in the past as a discussion that can only be had with a couple of bottles of red wine to take away the pain of the endless circling debate. Twitter is filled with people claiming that any answer given that is not about making people cleverer must be wrong. If we don’t have a collective agreement on the purpose of education, how can we ever decide if our education system is effective? Here Eddie Playfair offers his contribution to the education select committee investigation into the purpose of education. I loved this part: “Education has to help us join the world while opening up the possibility of changing it for the better.”
There are few blog posts now that make me cry, but reading this moved me. Tom always writes with such respect and such genuine warmth and this post is no exception. When our students don’t always follow the mythical line of progress and schools are condemned I can only conclude that politicians and the media forget that life happens to our students. The way Tom recounts the reaction of staff when this pupil leaves reminds us that schools are more than just places to learn, they are places of support and love too. “And then the taxi came. Time to go. We said goodbye. And, once he’d left, we all crumbled. It wasn’t his sadness – it was his bravery. He was doing something so much harder than anything most people ever have to do. He got up to face it – I could barely look at him in case he saw me cry when he was doing his best not to … Stephen – take care. We’re proud of you and we’ll be there when you need us.”
After being lured to read this by the catchy title tribute to the brilliant David Bowie I found myself becoming frightened. I fear that teachers are not aware of the consequences of changes to testing. More schools will become “failing”. No teacher, governor or head wants to face the dire, demotivating and crushing consequences of being deemed to be failing. “It’s very unlikely that any schools think that they have ‘got it made’ but I do wonder if they are aware of the changes and challenges which will come over the next few years. In particular, the new ‘expected standard’ will be far more challenging: Broadly equivalent to level 4B or above in reading, writing and mathematics at Key Stage 2 Grade 5 or higher at Key Stage 4 … When the new Grade 5 standard is introduced in place of the current C grade standard, we calculate that the percentage of children who secure this “good pass” level in English and Maths will initially fall by around 23 per cent, from 58 per cent to 35 per cent.”
With test changes like these happening, is it any wonder the curriculum diet for our children is narrowed and our belief in the true purpose of education is forgotten?
Our beliefs about the purpose of education will affect our reaction to the narrowing of the curriculum to ensure children pass tests. Some teachers will see other subjects as secondary to a secure grounding in maths and English, but at what age can you sacrifice the entitlement to a broad and balanced education? How are the year 2 teachers feeling in your school? How are you feeling after reading the Datalab blog? Here, Sue highlights some of the many problems in getting children to resit SATs in year 7. “Why on earth would we decide to compound problems of transition by adding the stress of a test they must ‘pass’ after less than 100 days at a new school? The biggest reason why this idea is so worrying is because of what will happen to the curriculum for these children. I can already imagine the interventions, the narrow set of subjects, and the after school classes. What kind of way is this to inspire children as they begin a new chapter?”