Mocks: Is the message to pupils ‘someone will do it for you’?

It’s that time of year: the time when most secondary school teachers are marking – or will soon be marking – what were once known as mock exams. Now known as pre-public examinations (PPEs), the marking of these exams will take ages; the feedback even longer. But we want our pupils to succeed so we press on despite being near the end of an exhausting term. Tes reports.

The real problem with PPEs is the aftermath: the desperate need to appear to be doing something about “underachieving” pupils: the fear-driven compulsion to run revision sessions before school, at lunchtime, after school and – in some schools – even on Saturdays.

We do our pupils a disservice by generating lists of those who require intervention based purely on the data, not on our judgement. Other than the obvious injustice of holding them to an arbitrary target – which has the core purpose of measuring the school, not the pupil – the message that these interventions give to our pupils is “someone will do it for you”.

Years of “intervention” will inevitably lead pupils to an attitude of disillusionment and potentially to disaster in the workplace, when they are unable to shoulder responsibility for themselves.

So, what can we do instead?

Currently, most intervention sessions are coerced, in that the pupils must attend “or else”. I believe schools should aim to switch to a surgery-style approach in which a teacher leaves their door open at a particular time for pupils who need help on a specific concept. Requests for help with the entire subject would indicate that the pupil had made no attempt themselves. If we really want what’s best for our kids, we should turn these pupils away until they have pinpointed specific areas that they need support with.

Motivation, when discussed at schools, is often simply an “add on”. But if we spent more time and resources getting pupils to determine what cause or belief drives them, or simply promoting the benefits of a good education, we would make a greater contribution to their life chances and workplace success than by simply continuing to force them to revise.

Read the full article Mocks: Is the message to pupils ‘someone will do it for you’?

Does the author have a point? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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