Secret Teacher: Would you encourage parents of a low-achieving student to change schools so your results weren’t dragged down?

This week’s Secret Teacher from the Guardian discusses facing the dilemma of whether to encourage parents of a low-achieving student to change schools so school results weren’t dragged down…

…In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.

One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.

When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.

During that same time, I mentioned that a higher-ability child might be leaving at the end of the year. I was then instructed to remove them from any groups so we were not doing the work for another school’s levels. Luckily, the child was very bright and well supported at home, but imagine the damage this would have done to a child who struggled and whose parents were unable to provide extra support…

I cared deeply about my class and the children in it. Trying to see them as numbers was impossible; I could never bring myself to say I wasn’t interested in their lives. So I would have several children hanging back at break and lunch to talk to me. It’s an upsetting thing to wonder, but was it going the extra mile that made me spread myself too thin? If I had focused on the children who were easier and written off the ones that were a challenge, would I have been less exhausted? If I had pushed parents of lower-ability children to make their child another school’s problem, it would have made my pupil progress meetings easier.

But I couldn’t have lived with myself. Instead, I kept children that may have been leaving in groups secretly, read with lower-ability children at lunchtime, and took the time to ask a child why they were not trying their best rather than toeing the party line and punishing them for wasting learning time. Feeling like I was failing the children in my care was not pleasant, and I almost burned out – so I left. I don’t know where my next career will take me but I know I am not willing to write children off in the name of targets and levels…

More at: Secret Teacher: education writes off students in the name of targets

How do you react to the situation described in this article? Is this kind of thing going on more broadly? And what is really to blame? Targets or the school’s willingness to do anything – even something which seems at odds with a school’s fundamental purpose – in order to reach them? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. bombaybadboy79

    SchoolsImprove life can be damaging enough for low achievers why would we want to pigeon hole further.

  2. bombaybadboy79

    SchoolsImprove All children are equal and deserve the same chance irrespective of ability and background , society breaks our children

  3. bombaybadboy79

    garrodt SchoolsImprove could not agree more , however it does not mean that we should further ostracise our children

  4. Digitamworth

    SchoolsImprove Stats suggest that our local schools who identify & support kids with #SEN well, start showing improved outcomes overall!

  5. garrodt

    bombaybadboy79 garrodt SchoolsImprove could not agree more,however it does not mean that we should further ostracise our children (:-))

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