Here is our new blog feature. Rather than have me or Neil post our thoughts, we have asked a secret history teacher to tell us how it is for them at the chalk-face in 2013. Here is the first post. Enjoy.
Red, amber and grrrrrrrrrr.
You know the feeling, staring at the screen, eyes losing focus through a combination of fatigue, boredom and the grubby feeling of dishonesty. Yes, it’s that time again when SLT want to know how well the ‘self-contained learning units’ are doing in your history lessons.
Can there be many other activities as intellectually bankrupt, or as professionally dishonest, as regularly awarding a sub-divided level just to satiate a Deputy Head teacher’s pathological hunger for data? Yes, we all know that we must monitor how well our students are doing, but how often are teachers pressured into entering a number just to meet the demands of a wildly optimistic target grade? How many of us hesitate to enter a number for fear that the little cell in Excel or Sims will turn to amber, or worse, red? How many NQT’s and RQT’s enter a figure while the image of angry, sharp elbowed parents runs through their minds? With many schools now insisting on four levels of progress as the norm, the pressure on teachers will only intensify.
Where does it leave the kids? Those of us that remember a smattering of the research from the PGCE, will wonder which study ever showed that all students make progress at exactly the same rate. Yet SLTs across the land insist that little Jonny (not the brightest, but keen, loves castles) and delightful Imogen (so mature and polite, loves to read) must both make two sub-levels of progress in year 7. No sympathy for the late developer (and how many boys fall into this category?) when faced with so much red, so often, on their report. By year 9, if you’re lucky, Jonny is apathetic, disengaged maybe even depressed. Worst case scenario, Jonny is all of the above and disruptive to boot. Maybe, if his confidence had not taken such a kicking, Jonny would have got there. Perhaps like so many kids he would have made real leaps and bounds in year 9.
I haven’t even started on the issue of whether levels should be sub-divided or used to assess individual pieces of work. I don’t have the time. I have to finish these reports and I know the Deputy Head teacher was disappointed the last time I did them…