I promise I’ve tried. I really have! Please, please, please believe me when I say “I have tried to say nothing” …
I have sat and read blogs and tweets about grade boundaries, higher versus foundation, early entry and so much more along these themes … you will have noticed I’ve said nothing. Not a word! I’m sat here and for once I’m typing, deleting, typing deleting as I question whether I really want to enter the debate (s) .. it’s not just one thing is it? and they are all so inter-related in my opinion that they can’t be discussed in isolation, and certainly not in 120 characters. If I’m being honest (as I always am!) I’m still not sure I want to have the discussion … after all it is still the holiday, and I have a “to-do” list with 124 things on it, and writing this wasn’t on it! So let’s make a deal and this is what I have to offer: I write my thoughts, you read them but then keep your arguments to yourself! How does that sound? … I didn’t think you’d go for it but always worth asking.
Before I start:
(0) My first point is numbered as “0” because it is the over-riding factor. Whether you do or don’t agree with the measures used, schools are measured by league tables. It’s just the way it is. Whether I think that education should be about getting exam results (I do, in part, in fact if you’re interested!) is a different and an almost pointless discussion because “we have what we have” and changing or influencing any changes is bigger than you or me (unless you’re one of the twitterati or work at the DFE). I’m not saying you give up trying to influence or change the system (never give up!) but it’s not for the here and now in terms of this blog post. It just needs to be remembered that parents send their kids, and students come to school with the expectation that, at the end of 11 years of schooling they will sit exams. Whether the measure of success should be set at a grade C again is another discussion I could have with you (see what I mean about not wanting to start down this road??)
So let’s deal with some of the recent topics that I have tried (have I told you how hard I’ve tried?) to avoid discussing …
(1) This years improved maths results are as a result of stopping early entry
I was a fan of early entry when used correctly, for all the reasons, and used in the way that I wrote about here: If only you knew. Each and every reason is a student, a real person with a real story. Our maths departments results stayed in the 80’s for the third year running and that was without early entry in November. At this point some of you will say “80 isn’t that amazing” … it is when I tell you that we were 20+% above target (again!!). Again with no early entry in November. To be fair, we weren’t predicting such high results (we’ve always been cautious about high predictions) but Seager really pulled it out of the bag with his intervention groups and we’ve been lucky this year and almost all of the students made it through until the end of year 11 and it was for those type of students that early entry worked. The issue with linking the improvement in results with the withdrawal of early entry is that people assume that everyone was using it to “game” the system. This years amazing results show that not to be the case for us … I feel validated.
(2) Grade boundaries
Bemoaning the fact that the C grade boundary was “X” and how unfair it was and then producing stats showing grade boundary trends just doesn’t make sense. End of. Of course they are going to fluctuate … the papers differ in terms of difficulty and so you aren’t comparing “like for like”. Again, maybe I’ve missed something here but if it’s an easy paper why wouldn’t the grade boundary be moved? I’ve been having a real “maybe it’s me” moment recently over this, so it could be me that has it wrong.
(3) I knew it! Just knew it! I should have put those students on Foundation/Higher (delete as appropriate!)
I genuinely think that if you had made a different choice there would be a different group of students in your group for which you would be saying exactly the opposite of what you are saying right now. I have views about the higher v foundation tier and have blogged about how I think putting students on foundation is limiting their ambition, I can give you more concrete examples from this Summer if you wanted – I would remind you to read this in the context of point (0) – but they are the along the same lines as last year (search the blog or I’ll hunt some links out), just with different students. The same thing happens every year!
(4) Using Higher/Foundation is playing the “game” … no!
I am paid to get the best progress out of my students. It is not a game. If getting the best grade for them (again considering point (0)) is what I am meant to do, that is what I will do. What I would point out to you is that the school I have just left (well at the end of the month) only missed 2 target “C” grade students and I can tell you the reasons behind them BUT the number of D, E and F target students that got C’s makes up for these in buckets and buckets, and buckets. BUT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT: the levels of progress across all grades (which I think is a great measure by the way) will come out amazingly – KS2 level 2 students getting D’s, KS2 level 3 students getting B’s and that is what is important … these students know that we have a belief in them. This goes a long, long way and to see students on Thursday who we have struggled to get to attend one to one tuition, or have been royal pains in the ‘arris nearly in tears and shaking Seagers’ hand saying “thank you” was emotional. It’s life-changing and in no way, shape, or form, is what we do a game. I can assure you it is real life.
A final thought … as I press publish (and rush out of the door so I don’t have the see the reaction … I’ll deal with it later!!) … none of this is aimed at any one person, it’s just a reaction to the flavour of my twitter timeline this week …