Secret Teacher: our obsession with targets is hurting vulnerable pupils

The latest Secret Teacher, writing in the Guardian, says he/she became a teacher to help students who struggle to cope, but constant box-ticking means means they are making little difference.

A lot of the people I know became teachers because they loved school – I became a teacher for the opposite reason. I have dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder, as well as a genetic disorder that affects my joints. At school, I was considered to have special needs. I didn’t realise that I was different until I started primary school and things that the other children seemed to find easy – such as getting dressed after sports – were mystifyingly hard for me…

Working with teenagers who had learning difficulties showed me that teaching can make a difference. That’s when I chose to study a PGCE with a focus on inclusion.

But four years into my teaching career, I worry about how little impact I’m having. I feel most like a failure when I’m working with special educational needs (SEN) students. The things I do to help them are only softening the blow. Attitudes have changed a great deal since I was at school – a teacher once accused me of being lazy and having nothing wrong with me – but policy has failed to keep up.

Schools are supposed to be inclusive, but pressure from government to focus on testing makes it difficult for this to happen. The focus is on meeting rigid targets, regardless of individual needs…..

It’s not just students with special needs who suffer as a result of this system. Late developers and those who are talented in areas outside of English and maths also lose out. No matter how hard teachers try to hide the emphasis on targets, the message inevitably filters down to the children…

More at: Secret Teacher: our obsession with targets is hurting vulnerable pupils


There’s a lot more in the full article but hopefully you get the gist here. What do you think – is it a valid criticism that a target-driven culture in schools is harming vulnerable children, perhaps more so than any others?

In practice, what, if anything, could be done within the current system to improve things for the better? 

Please share your feedback, insights and experiences in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. Dunk5pin

    Totally agree. Not just for our SEN pupils but for all children. Testing at 4,7 and 11 is too excessive and it is demoralising our pupils. They are switched off and disengaged when they leave primary as a result of Year 6 being nothing more than a revision year. These children do not get the opportunity to follow the Curriculum and excel in art, music D and T etc as they only have time for SATs revision. It’s a tradegy!

  2. Mirror_Assembly

    One of my proudest pieces of feedback was from Ofsted who described my schools as being “fully inclusive”, acknowledging our belief that ” we are the adults here and we need to adapt to your child/children”. But that was 8 years ago.

  3. Dunk5pin Article in the Times on Saturday expressed concern about the rising rates of mental health issues in teens.   One of the reasons was school pressure and pressure from parents for children to ‘succeed’.  Another was the squeezing out of creative subjects from the curriculum so children had reduced relief from the constant pressure.

  4. Dai_James1942

    SchoolsImprove At what point do the children realise that 65% of them are pore-ordained to worthless certificates by norm referencing?

  5. Dai_James1942

    SchoolsImprove At what point do kids realise that 65% of them are preordained by norm-referencing to get rubbish GCSEs? #GreatEducationHoax

  6. ian_bec

    Dai_James1942 SchoolsImprove teachers likewise. Gains for one school can only come at the expense of another.

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