Secret Teacher: the cold, hard truth is that many of us cheat to meet targets

The latest Secret Teacher, writing in the Guardian, says the obsession with levels and never wanting to be on the wrong side of data is forcing many teachers into unscrupulous practice…

There’s something rotten festering in our schools. It’s the elephant in the room, a skeleton in our closet and the clothes on the emperor. It has afflicted, tarnished and debased our once respected profession. Cheating. The cold, hard truth which we wilfully try to ignore is that, to some degree, almost all of us do it.

It might be the extreme side of the spectrum where we actually complete the assessed work for our pupils, or maybe we just give a child a few extra minutes to finish off an exam. Wherever we position ourselves, cheating is happening, and I believe on a huge scale…

If I’m looking to level the blame for this despairing state of affairs, I wouldn’t lay it at the door of the wonderful professionals who work at the chalkface every day. I’d start with The Chart, one of the many sheets stuffed with data that measure teacher performance. Statistics have become the de facto arbiter of a teacher’s value. Anything outside the myopic parameters of the chart is worthless…

Things haven’t always been this way, though, and it is worth considering how we got here. Today’s marathon has become tomorrow’s norm. The unforgiving, relentless pursuit of targets has snowballed into a Darwinian dog-eat-dog landscape. Only the fittest survive – and you have to do everything and anything to stay on top. The chart has turned teachers against one another and local schools have become competitors not colleagues.

To add insult to misery, nobody says a word. We play the game, sticking our fingers in our ears and shouting at the top of our voices to drown out any semblance of regret or remorse. Unfortunately the group who suffers most in all this are the ones without a voice – our pupils, with their school life now a miasma of tests and pressure. A world where the possibility that they are anything other than a statistic is a luxury we can’t afford.

I would love to end this article on a positive note, opining that there’s a way out, things can change, a light is at the end of the tunnel. But I can’t: the punitive, target-obsessed culture is too embedded and prevalent. Poet and novelist, Victor Hugo, once said: “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” I fully agree with his famous phrase – but with one tiny amendment…

More at: Secret Teacher: the cold, hard truth is that many of us cheat to meet targets


Powerful stuff from the Secret Teacher – do you agree that cheating – in whatever form – is now happening on a huge scale in schools? And is the fact that schools are increasingly target driven actually any excuse for this behaviour? 


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Categories: Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Data obsession from DfE, govt ministers & Ofsted is toxic, but without it they have no stick with which to beat

  2. andylutwyche

    “Nor_edu: andylutwyche SchoolsImprove and don’t forget PRP…” Quite – ran out of characters. PRP is a symptom of data obsession

  3. DeputySpecial

    SchoolsImprove So do politicians the point is who are the targets for. SEN need target for employment; employers and employees, no chance

  4. AndyDefinite

    SchoolsImprove Targets – control freak industrial model has sucked creativity out of our schools replacing it with the sad lifeskill deceit

  5. pbates76

    SchoolsImprove It is a sad state of affairs that this is the case but when results matter more than morals what do we expect?

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