This week’s Secret Teacher says it’s the students who are the real victims of Michael Gove’s reforms. This is an extract from the Guardian…
…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.
There is a tremendous fear among senior managers of Ofsted, of diminishing cash flow – sorry – student intake; of league tables; of neighbouring schools’ results – with a relentless drive to have all the data in place and presenting the Ofsted-approved picture. There is no let-up. Friends of mine at one school are being told that reports are no longer allowed to show a student having a lower grade than before – reports must show only a steady progression. But students’ grades can dip for all kinds of reasons. It is this kind of insidious, unreasonable pressure that is beginning to tell.
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.
Funding cuts, too, are having serious repercussions. I have heard of one school which has radically reduced the number of teaching assistants to the point that teachers are being asked to explain how they are going to differentiate for SEN students who will now no longer have that support. And statemented students, who not so long ago could count on full-time one-to-one TAs, are now often on their own. This often leaves teachers with a difficult choice: spend most of their time with the statemented student, who still needs one-to-one, or focus on the rest of the class? Either way, somebody loses out.
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…
What do you think or Secret Teacher’s arguments? Please let us know in the comments or via twitter…