Secret Teacher: why I’m worried about my grandson starting school

This week’s Secret Teacher says there is a pressurised culture in schools where children are seen as pupils first and individuals second. This is an extract from the Guardian

…The reality is there always has been and always will be, a proportion of our population, who will not achieve level 4 at the end of key stage 2, let alone a level 6 (the new level 5!). It is very unlikely that my grandson will.

It is also unlikely that he will pass the year 1 phonics test or achieve a level 2 in the key stage 1 Sats. I fully expect him to struggle with the many and various tests, presented to him over his school career. This will not be the fault of his teachers. It is just the way he is. He will be labelled a failure before he has even started his life. This label will be stamped on his head repeatedly throughout his school journey, ultimately ensuring a permanent disaffection with education.

Yet, non-academic children (with and without special needs) like my lovely grandson, still have a hugely important part to play in society. We should still have high expectations. We need them, and we need them to feel happy and valued. Schools should have the freedom to nurture all children’s abilities without the fear that this will detract from league table positions.

Children should have exposure to a full range of creative and non-academic subjects. Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications should be respected and not belittled by politicians and the media. We need to reject this notion that academic success is the only route. If not, the consequences will be that we end up with a section of society who feel embarrassed and dissatisfied with their lot – when they should feel proud and content at the important part they contribute.

The fact is, I don’t really mind if my grandson isn’t the brightest button in the box but, what I will mind very much, is if his happiness and self-esteem is compromised – a callous casualty of this testing frenzy.

I often wonder about how this ranking culture has come about. The madness to which it is being pursued is embodied within a current Department for Education consultation document. This recommends that children are organised into deciles at the end of key stage 2 according to their academic prowess.

If this ghastly idea (borrowed from the pages of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World?) ever does come to fruition, I am sure my grandson will be consigned to the bottom deciles. Apparently, parents wish to know such information. Not any parents I know.

Shouldn’t the rights of the child come first? What about the rights of the children at the ‘bottom’? The ones that everyone else piles on top of in a desperate attempt to reach that elusive pinnacle – supreme academic achievement. Only the highest point of that summit will do – anything lower is failure.

How could it be guaranteed that only parents would discover such rankings? My worst case scenario is that my grandson discovered his ‘place’. I would trust that by then, the DfE may have a contingency plan: What about – along with a full apology – long term and expensive counselling services, ensuring that my grandson’s emotional wellbeing was fully and completely restored.

More at:  Secret Teacher: why I’m worried about my grandson starting school

Do you agree with Secret Teacher’s worries or do you believe his/her grandson is likely to be well looked after, despite his special needs? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Primary.


  1. LearnWLesley

    SchoolsImprove totally-education has become more about statistics/ tests and less about preparing confident positive adults.

  2. JeniHooper

    SchoolsImprove a child is a person not just a pupil and never an outcome measure or a data unit or a decile result. *politicians take note

  3. MinoHedgehog

    SchoolsImprove & secret teacher, thanks! This post moved me, it reminds me of my Physics teacher. He said something v similar & I agree.

  4. MinoHedgehog

    SchoolsImprove yes: education is not about turning us all in intellectuals, it is about bringing out the best in us, whatever we are.

  5. TeachHW

    SchoolsImprove I agree with you, it appears every child matters but some more than others,something that has always upset and frustrated me

  6. looloobyloo

    JeniHooper SchoolsImprove hear hear and not all children progress at the same rate and dare I say it some even need time to consolidate!

  7. sappg001

    looloobyloo JeniHooper SchoolsImprove that’s when performance related pay kicks in the teeth. That’s where it becomes a game

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