Wednesday, 8 April 2015

You MUST pass... Or welcome Government intervention.

I woke this morning to a story about students having to resit their KS2 SATs if they do not pass them as a part of the Tory education manifesto. Now, I'm currently in the middle of my first week of my Easter holidays, and I've worked hard for them. I had planned to take the first week off doing anything 'proper' to do with work - I've been for a few bike rides, walks by the canal and today I took in a round of golf with a retired ex-colleague.

We discuss education and school on a regular basis and because this story had broken this morning, we were discussing this.

In pure monetary terms... I reckon we have, at most, 40 students working below 4 based on KS2 data in our current year 7 cohort. Minimum of 30. At £500 per student (the figure I read earlier), that's between £15,000 and £20,000 per year for these students - which could pay the salary of someone to come in and work solely with our English & Maths L3 Year 7 students. These students would be removed from normal lessons and do only English and Maths, simply because they have between 1 and 6 years of things to catch up on so that they can pass their resit.

Thought: Resits are now OK at KS2, but not at GCSE? Weird.

In the above situation, we're removing kids from doing things that they might enjoy - the arts, sciences, language and humanities. It's OK, because they'll then have passed English and Maths... but at what cost to their rounded education?

We discussed the problems that are encountered on a daily basis. I compared all of them to my Year 11s this year - who I have been telling to revise since November's parents evening (they've needed to, given their grades), and download a revision 'Care Package', that only 8 out of 24 had until Easter started. These students won't fail Maths year because of a poor teacher - they'll fail Maths because they haven't cared for the last 5 years or more. Their main interest in school is to be with their friends - education is secondary to too many inner city school kids. They don't see it as something they get to do, they see it as something they're made to do. Too many have the aim of becoming an electrician, or mechanic, rather than changing the world through engineering or healthcare.

I don't see an easy fix to the problems that inner city schools face. It's engrained in society and something drastic is required to combat it. I think the best option would be to adopt the American school system of keeping kids back. The kids would hate it - 'I'm not staying in Year 8', 'Well, y'see, yes you are, because it's the law...'. The parents would hate it - 'I'm not having my child stay in Year 8!' 'Well, y'see, here's the thing... It's the law now...'. They'd be so embarrassed - two kids on the same street, same age, growing up together, one who's in year 7 and one who's still in year 4. They'd work harder, they'd study more and they'd want to move up through the year groups with their friends. They wouldn't want to be in the same room as kids two years younger than them. The parents would be so embarrassed - 'Jonny's in year 6 next year, how's Sandra doing?' 'Sandra's not past year 3 yet'. They'd support their child in their learning, in their homework, in their schooling, because they don't want to have a kid who's been kept back two years in a row because they're not focusing in school.

The first 5 years would be horrendous, but consider the long term gain.

All said, a large proportion of our 'below L4' students are EAL and have only recently arrived to the country and have missed the formative parts of their education. Others have other educational needs which were clearly not met throughout primary and have left them ill prepared for secondary school.

The above plan isn't a stick to beat kids with, though. It will ensure that they're learning at the level that they should be, progressing through at an acceptable pace and achieving grades that are appropriate to their ability.

Oh well. I'll look forward to teaching Sam next year, who's new to the country from Africa in Y6 and gets a level 2. I'll get to make sure he passes his maths, and when he doesn't fill in 5 and a half years worth of gaps in 6 months, I'll be excited to see what intervention strategies the Government put in place so that Sam and his peers have such amazing futures.

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