Improving Standards

Various news stories emerged during the half term week with:

  • Yorkshire Tea having to embarrassingly recall a batch of teapots that cracked when boiling God’s brew.
  • The RNA committee proposing that this year’s winners of the Royal Open Golf be paid in dollars not in pounds, due to the concern over the recent Brexit led fall in the pound.
  • President Trump’s latest dalliance with the truth being the incorrect denouncement of events in Sweden, based on his obsession with only Fox News, not factual news stories.

All of these depressing stories have a common epitaph, which has become the default position if any public figure is called to account.  They will predictably bluster the following phrase “improving standards”.  The common link with the above news stories was a variety of spokesmen stating that the recall of teapots, protection of multi millionaire golfers’ wallets and all things American, was underpinned by the need to protect the company and countries’ standards, whether it be tea, golfing prestige or American homeland security.  On journeys to rugby matches, my teacher friend and I play a game of ‘edutwaddle bingo’, whereby we read out or listen to recent educational news stories, analyse education secretaries’ statements and guess how many educational clichés they will reel out.  For example, ‘status of the teaching profession’, ‘educational investment’, ‘educational landscape’, ‘comparative targets’, ‘inspiration’, ‘motivation, ‘perspiration’  would bring seven points for seven clichés!  Then there is the gift that keeps giving, that reforming confessor, the ‘Dark Lord’ Gove, whose every utterance is edutwaddle and a cliché.  “I’m a decentraliser” and “I believe in trusting professionals” are two recent examples.  The amount of abuse depends on the stupidity of the comment and whether there is any credence to these ‘sound bites’ that ‘Trump like’ have replaced facts.  The England rugby team would be totally in the aggressive zone if they played this game, even if the rules changed midgame.

Therefore, our cynically aware antennae were primed for the Department for Education’s response to the unsurprising, critical MP’s report into the crisis of teacher recruitment and retention.  The spokesman’s predictable comment cited Justine Greening’s ‘ambition to continue driving up standards through investment in professional development’.  Thereby ignoring the fact that teaching has major problems with standards falling to an all time low in:

  • How we measure our schools. Progress of the 8 best subjects in principle seems fair but already it is open to abuse with schools persuading weaker, vulnerable students to seek pastures new via exclusion or home education or playing the system by finding accredited subjects such as European Computer Driving Licence.  See excellent blog ‘Love Learning… A Broken System’.
  • How we examine our students. This year’s exams are tantamount to child cruelty with students expected to sit for an average of thirty two hours as opposed to last year’s 18!  An English paper of two and a quarter hours and geography afternoon papers with key papers in the morning are a test of endurance, not skill.
  • How we mark the key exams is in crisis; inconsistent, inaccurate and inaccessible and due to the expense of appealing likely to be flawed. GCSEs are being undertaken in twelve weeks time with 7,000 markers still needing to be recruited.  How can our young people trust this system?
  • How we pay our teachers who are falling further down the graduate rankings with secondary teachers ranked 9/12 and primary colleagues 11/12 for median gross earnings – Data Research.

These are the standards glibly talked about.  Shoddy investment in the infra structure, the mental well-being of the profession and their workload have not driven up standards and it is hypocritical to claim otherwise.  These are falling standards and as a school are we failing our young people?

Various educational secretaries cannot ‘Arsène Wenger like’ claim to not see ‘the looming crisis’ which cannot be masked by a whirly gig of educational reform.  These changes to GCSE grades, levels, subjects and Ofsted judgements cannot be hidden as improving standards.  This profession that is attempting to wear Emperor’s clothes yet is naked and vulnerable is sadly failing our fabulous staff and lovely young people.  The Ofsted judgements and exams taken are rushed, ill thought out and liable to be inaccurate.  This is not the way to recruit and retain professional people and is not a standardised approach to our educational system!