If ministers really want to trust teachers it’s time to ditch the number fairies

Do you think it is now possible to produce statistics on schools that not only ignore what teachers, headteachers and parents have to say about the children, but don’t even have to be attached to real pupils? Can there be fictive figures, floating above a school like number fairies? Michael Rosen, children’s author and broadcaster writes in The Guardian.

I had this thought at a school I visited. It went like this: the headteacher tells me he’s just had an Ofsted inspection and it’s not looking good. The inspector looked at the results from year to year and the performance levels haven’t been maintained. The headteacher looks worried, he thinks there is a possibility that they might be put into “special measures” or even forcibly turned into an academy.

He pulls out a chart, points at the list of children in year 6 and explains to me that hardly any of them have been at the school for more than 18 months. They are new to the country, new to speaking English. He’s proud that they did so well in the Sats in year 2 for seven-year-olds and proud of his staff.

As you’ll know, it’s number fairies like these, laughably known as data, that can decide whether a school will be put under special measures or be forced by you, Mr Hinds, to become an academy – no matter what the head, the staff, the parents or the children say.

As for the autonomy of schools in general, who is the ultimate arbiter on the opening or closing of academies? It’s you. You alone hold the destiny of thousands of people in your hands. Historically speaking, the school curriculum has never been more controlled from the top. That’s how centrally directed high-stakes testing, exams, inspections and league tables work. These control what and how children learn. I see stuff being taught that is a direct result of the demands made from the top by one of your predecessors, Michael Gove. 

Read the full article If ministers really want to trust teachers it’s time to ditch the number fairies

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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