One of the big mistakes I keep making in leadership is thinking that I can influence change in national policy. The great divide, between policy changers and professionals doing the job day after day, has never seemed so wide as it does right now. I have no confidence in the people who drive educational policy anymore. I believe they have no idea what it is like to work in a school or to run a school. More concerning they seem to have no affinity or empathy with the vast majority of children, teachers or parents who experience it.
What the recent SATs debacle clearly tells us is just how out of touch key politicians really are with what children, professionals and parents think about the current testing regime. It also shows how naive many school leaders have been; I include myself in this brutal analysis. I have the brightest group of pupils ever in my school. The test results do not support this. It is gutting. It feels wrong. I will take the blame for this. I was naïve but I did not create this and, I ask, to what real purpose would you create an accountability system like this? Harder tests, absolutely! Brimstone and Fire, never.
The cynic in me thinks this is political posturing of the highest calibre. It feels like a, ‘if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad’ moment. By creating a ‘new system’ in which 47% failed and the other 53% can hardly boast about their position, we seem primed for intervention, say?
“How about an academy chain or something?”
Don’t believe for a second that this is not in the back of someone in politics mind.
If the dumbing down of our current generation of Y6 is allowed to pass us by without genuine and effective challenge then this will be viewed in the history books as political genius. I keep seeing the retweet of The Suns Charles Kennedy ‘reptiles and traitors’ front page. People in positions of power will stop at nothing to get their way. As all the commentators of the Tory Leadership race keep saying, “The gloves are off… It will be brutal!” Why? Why are we so at odds with each other?
When asked about the highlights of their year my current, amazing and brilliant, Y6 did not say their ability to conjugate the verb, or apply fronted adverbials – though the VAST majority do this with ease. All but 4 out of 64 said their highlight was camp. It was mountain boarding, gorge scrambling and rock climbing. It was obscure jokes and friendship. It was being in situ with teachers who loved and cared for them and recognised why they were wonderful, intelligent and amazing. People, who utterly believed in them, knew them and wanted the very best for them. It is never hard for a teacher to see the promise in a child. It is right there in their face each and every day. I wonder how in touch the movers and shakers of our political elite are with the raw materials of our future?
Lesson One: Working on the shop floor is a better leadership education than observing what we think should happen on the shop floor from the safety of the office window.
The majority (I note how the DFE now use 50% plus as majority) of us utterly disagree with the DFE and Nicky Morgan and their synopsis of what has happened in this year’s SATs.
As a parent I do not want to hear that my bright, driven and ambitious child is a failure. We are lucky enough to witness the brightest generation of students leaving our Primary Schools. A cohort that will be labelled statistical failures – let us not forget that. 53% are leaving Y6 at the expected standard. Nothing convinces me that this is good for the self-esteem of our future generation. It is the educational equivalent of the pound post Brexit. The genius in this political strategy is it will only get better. Policy will reign true. Standards will rise. Next time you step over a teacher to talk to a politician, thank them. When in fact (Look at the writing scores) the truth is teachers will make it so. It is the easiest political win, as the song goes, “Things will only get better!” Like a Chilcott denial – the past is the past and collateral damage is part of the ‘bigger picture’. Let’s raise our glasses to this generation for the great sacrifice they have made for the future. Let the numbers increase in the name of political strategy and genius. The numbers prove it – that’s Numberwang!
The government talk of being secure in the basics.
How secure are you in the art of prepositional phrases, relative clauses, the past progressive, determiners, active voice, modal verbs, adverbs or, subordinating conjunctions? Seriously, are you willing to go public on that?
‘Basics’ that even the testing champion Nick Gibb can’t get right under pressure.
It is utterly right to want more challenging and higher expectations of our children. Why would we not want this? Tough tests are a good thing for the vast majority of learners. The highest expectations are a clear way of raising aspirations and expectation. Where our political class are so removed from the real professionals is in the fact that they have created an accountability structure that is damaging because it IS based on these narrow measurements which pervert and mould teaching and learning. We are in danger of replacing pedagogy with a testingogy.
Just listen to us. Just trust that we want to be the best education system in the world. Why play this stupid test game in this way? Test, absolutely, but why use it in a high stakes game of fear? Why not ask us to develop the most skilled, ambitious and aspirational generation of future citizens who believe in themselves and their country? Why even try to test this? Why not trust us with test results and let us use these results to target and improve outcomes?
Post Brexit, I am determined to be proud to be a part of our green and pleasant lands despite the venom and ignorance. We are absolutely placed to rise up and build our futures. We will do this. I know that WE will do this… What is sad is the fact that it is clear we will do this despite the politicians who we had entrusted to improve the educational experiences of our nation… but if they can prove an increase in the PISA league tables who am I to argue differently? Oh silly me… Policy has impacted so much that we are now 12th rather than 27th? It is just posturing and has nothing to do with the daily lives of those people our education system is there to serve.