Wednesday, 6 May 2015

It's Testing Time!

My friend Wendy sent me an article from the London Review Of Books about the state of education in England today. It was horribly dispiriting. There was one bright spot. Someone is starting to question if continually pressing down on disadvantaged kids with more and more test practice to get better results to ward off the inspectorate, can actually be called 'an education'. Someone is seeing the light.

Perhaps to your surprise, I think that education reform was necessary and generally well-intentioned.There is a section of our student-body that is highly resistent to advancement: children living in financial, social and emotional poverty. To improve the life-chances of these kids is a noble aim, and if the dismanting of public education would achieve it, I'd go for it. Trouble is, it's not working. I think that this is because there is an official blind-spot as to where the remedy lies. I taught schools in areas of social deprivation for most of my career, and I know quite a lot about this, and I would like to offer my own prescription for improvement.

Give the children most resistent to attainment the same priviledges as the children of the wealthy:

Safe streets

A diet sufficient in nutrients to feed the brain and allow proper intellectual development

Safe places to play

Economic stability

Unstressed living

Small classes

Bright, beautiful and stimulating school buildings

The best teachers

An enriched curriculum

Time with a caring adult

A sense of entitlement


Not going to happen is it? It bloody well SHOULD! How can it possibly be right to further impoverish a child's experience of school by increasing the time spent ( often with complete futility) in the intellect- deading pursuit of endlessly practising for tests? Unless kids are safe, unstressed, well-nourished, and well-cared for, they're not going to achieve very much at all. This is an unpalatable truth. Politicians may not be able to fix this all at once, but recognising the answer doesn't lie with superheads or free-schools, or blaming teachers, but with a more egalatarian society, would be a great start.

Gordon Brown once set something like this as a target, so political will WAS there. Once.

Back in1990, the year the SATS were introduced, I was teaching the first cohort of seven-year-olds subjected to them. Teaching to the test was actively discouraged. They were to be a true reflection of a student's ability.

They're now a true reflection of the sytem's stupidity,

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