Secret Teacher: the obsession with league tables cheats our children.

My school is gaming the system for results, and it’s far from the only one. If we want to offer a meaningful education we must rethink how we measure success says The Secret Teacher in The Guardian. 

Since September our school has been doing everything possible to game the system. We hand out A and B grades for coursework that would have once been worth C or D grades. Our GCSE students have had their option subjects taken away from them to concentrate solely on English, maths and science. Our weakest students have been moved on to vocational subjects so that their results do not affect league tables, and our younger students are left with supply teachers because their results don’t matter for at least another two years. Every decision is made with the league table in mind.

The new Progress 8 framework, which measures the progress made by students at a given school, could offer some hope of improvement. The new measure, alongside the widespread removal of coursework, should mean that schools focus on all students, instead of just those who sit on the crucial C grade borderline. But the focus will still remain on preparing students to pass exams rather than anything broader.


Perhaps we need to ask ourselves fundamental questions about what we want our education system to look like. If we accept the view of Pisa, the international organisation that evaluates education systems worldwide, then we should see education as the means of “equipping citizens with the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfil their full potential” and enabling them to “contribute to an increasingly connected world”. If we keep this in mind, we can start to think more clearly about alternative assessment procedures we might put in place.

We could move beyond measuring students solely on their end-of-year exams. Outside of exams on core subjects, we could offer opportunities for students to be examined on areas that interest them, fuelling their love for learning and engagement with meaningful content. We could give students the autonomy to be assessed in ways that they feel suited to, helping them to think independently and critically about the methods they use to present their ideas. We could submit grades based on behaviour and participation, demonstrating to students the importance of displaying positive attitudes within society. 

At present, I spend each day speaking with inspiring and creative young people who I fear are quickly starting to doubt the merits of hard work and academia. I watch as senior leaders tear their hair out in pursuit of results, worried that any damage to the school’s reputation will limit its ability to recruit the best teachers and most desirable students. I question my own motivations as a teacher, desperate to uphold my professional integrity while also trying to ensure my students’ aspirations are not limited by the grade they receive at 16.

Read the full article Secret Teacher: the obsession with league tables cheats our children. 

Do you think the new Progress 8 measure will help measure pupil’s abilities more fairly? Has Progress 8 made a difference in your school yet? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~Tamsin

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