What a mad couple of weeks … we have heard that the GCSE grading is to be replaced with levels, a new Curriculum has been bandied around, apparently our (and I mean UK) top end students aren’t making the same amount of progress as others and yesterday it was announced that levels are being scrapped and assessment can be introduced at a local level. All of this has taken place along with the subsequent media frenzy whilst almost every year 11 student in the country has been sitting, (for most of them what will be) the last exams of their school career.
Every time I’ve read or listened to yet another soundbite, its got me thinking about what my views are on that particular topic (don’t worry I’m not going to get all political) – to be honest I know that on some of the topics I don’t know enough about what the alternative could possibly be, or the pros and cons of these alternatives and I find myself reflecting on my time as a pupil who was part of the cohort to take the first GCSEs. I’ve said on twitter that I don’t recall knowing my targets, or my predicted grades and I don’t think I felt a great deal of pressure on me having to perform well at school for anyone other than myself. There was absolutely no feeling that if I didn’t perform it would reflect poorly on my teachers or my school it was very much down to me, and the only person who would be affected was ME!. Maybe they were feeling the pressure but it just didn’t transfer down to us, as students.
I know schools’ accountability has changed, but why shouldn’t schools be accountable? I don’t mean blindly just based on statistics because when you get down to the level of detail that we are able to, such as is needed to assess whether G&T students are making the required level of progress, just one student can have a massive impact. For example one student out of five level 5a students not achieving an A or A* means that a school can go from meeting national averages to being below that average, but the media makes this a headline: 20% of students (and its not a lie) don’t make the same level of progress at a specific school. I genuinely think that we do need measures for comparing performance within schools, not to say which school is better (who defines better anyway!?!) – but for identifying students who are or aren’t going to achieve their potential and then trying to help them – if they don’t want any additional support or intervention then so be it. In some cases all it takes to turn a student back onto learning is a kind word – knowing that someone has noticed that something is not quite right is sometimes enough for some students to do something differently.
How these changes will affect me as a humble classroom teacher is so far reaching that its almost incomprehensible – I’m quite pragmatic in my approach to change – it is inevitable and for the most, change can be good when it is considered and planned correctly with the right people making the right decisions. There will undoubtedly be more press releases and the media going mad over the next few weeks so whilst the storm continues and until there is a clear plan of action I will spend my time productively focusing on the learning of my students.