Our post today is a continuation of this week’s 3D Eye series on the harmful effects that our ‘education factories’ inflict on students and teachers alike. It’s important that parents, teachers, students and any others who care about our systems of education should be aware of how widespread the malaise has become in countries like the UK and the USA.
No doubt this “qualitative” evidence won’t be acceptable to Govists and others who care only for “quantitative” data when commenting on schools and the aims of education. No matter. We’re not setting out to ‘prove’ that schools can be damaging places for the people who work in them and learn in them. We simply encourage others to look at various case histories and various reports from “insiders”, to then debate what they see and hear, and to make up their own minds.
Today’s extracts are from the latest “Secret Teacher” column in the Guardian. The fact that teachers are afraid to publish their stories under their real names speaks volumes about the high levels of fear amongst caring professionals who need to become anonymous whistleblowers in order to pass on their concerns and anxieties.
Secret Teacher: our students are the real victims of Gove’s reforms
Until last week, I thought it was only the people at the whiteboard who were struggling to cope with the influx of education reform
Erratic overnight policy changes, vanishing classroom support, colleagues breaking down in tears, ridiculous grade projections: all part of the teacher’s lot. But now the pressure is evident among a new group of sitting targets.
The students themselves.
It was only a matter of time, really. With teachers under relentless pressure to achieve “challenging” grades from all students it’s no wonder that the students feel that pressure, too.
It’s all very well to have higher aspirations, but to have them hijacked by Ofsted-phobic managers is lunacy.
What makes the situation even more ludicrous is that these targets are only probabilities with a 70% accuracy rate – and we are being told to treat them as 100% certainties.
It wasn’t so long ago that teachers set their own target grades for students, making allowances as needed for changing circumstances; but thanks to Michael Gove’s pathological fear and mistrust of teachers, we’ve got to the point where what we think doesn’t even come into it. The pressure now to achieve targets is so great that teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent it bearing down directly on their students.
Large numbers of students are finding themselves having more of their time taken up by intervention: in tutorial time, lunchtime, after school, and lately even in the holidays when some students are under duress to attend controlled assessment rewrite or revision classes. Most parents seem to go along with this without thinking about the impact it might be having on their children.
Students have hardly any time left for growing up, let alone enjoying their childhood.
Concerns about the mental health of our youngsters aren’t new; what is new is that the effects of the toxic climate and the target-driven culture they are growing up in is becoming much more noticeable in the classroom – the one area in which they should feel reasonably safe. Instead, they are left bewildered and battered by the random assaults of a man who is meant to be working on their behalf.
Parents, of course, have little idea of the bizarre conversations we have with the exam boards; one week we are told that a certain mark is a C, only to be told a few weeks later that it’s now gone up to what we previously assumed was a B. If we don’t know where we stand from one half term to the next, how on earth can the people we are meant to be teaching? No wonder they feel betrayed.
And now resit classes include students who don’t need, or want, to be there, simply because the government says they must. Sam, who achieved the D he needed for his course, has been told that he must now gain a C. He sits there, resentful and unresponsive, not a particularly encouraging presence for the other students, some of whom do need a C.
Parents need to be made much more aware of the long-term consequences Gove’s impromptu dictats are having, not on teachers, but on those who really matter . . .
Read the rest of the article here – http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/nov/09/student-victims-gove-reforms
In case anyone thinks that it’s only in the weakest schools with the weakest teachers where these conditions exist, then please think again. We know of “elite” schools where students are under unreasonable and often unbearable pressure to achieve a complete set of A* exam results – where they experience feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt if they attain ‘only’ As and Bs.
What’s more, some of these schools are doing good work to ensure the wellbeing of their students, whilst simultaneously giving them the message that in the final analysis it’s getting those top grades that really counts. Of course it “counts” as far as the “credibilty” and reputation of the school is concerned. It counts as far as Ofsted, the government and the top universities are concerned. The sad irony, as attested by many of our highest achievers and by organisations like the CBI, is that exam grades are not and never will be the key determiners of who does well in life. But then who really understands or gives a damn about unmeasureable things such as resilience, optimism, self-esteem, confidence, enthusiasm, creativity, empathy, emotional literacy, honesty, perseverance and self-reliance?