With the general election on the way, the near and distant future of education in the UK is unknown. Parties are playing their part in attracting the teacher and parent vote by showing their ‘interest’ in the education system.
However a Conservative campaign error missed by many, yet not those involved in education, may make you think twice about the amount of ‘heart’ our current politicians put into education – are they not just looking for a vote to feed their greedy egos? The mistake – why the hell are these kids in school during half-term? It’s the Easter break, and they set up a campaign meeting at a school? With the surprising April heat-wave hitting the UK, the last thing a child wants to be doing is sitting in a classroom with a man she has no idea about! So, is it any wonder that Cameron failed to impress schoolgirl with reading skills?
So through campaigning and attempts to win votes, policies for change are slowly flying in. Yesterday saw the Tories plan for pupils with poor Sats results to resit them the following year. Prime Minister David Cameron promised parents “more rigour, zero tolerance of failure and mediocrity” in schools. They are doing this in an attempt to raise literacy and numeracy standards, bridging the gap between year 6 and 7 pupils. There should be no problem with such a policy – secondary teachers will see a raise in the basic literacy and numeracy standards in year 7 pupils, enabling them to develop more effectively at the beginning of their KS3 journey. Primary school teachers will have more of a drive to get their pupils to succeed, meaning more focus on the core subjects of education than any others – as Cameron says, “There is no job that doesn’t require English and maths, and this is about making sure every child gets the best start in life and that our country can compete in the world.”
Their is of course the flip side. First and foremost, is a resit in year 7 a suggestion that primary school teachers are incapable of doing their job? “They had a good go, put leave it to the secondary teachers now.” What if the child fails again in year 7 Sats? They would already be falling behind on Ks3 so to push them back even further just shows that they clearly aren’t ready for the next step of education. Which brings us to the next point – would a child resitting their Sats in year 7 not fall further behind their classmates? Would the gap not grow between the high and low achievers? A suggestion may be to have the resits in the summer holidays. Forget about the teachers for a second – if a pupil gets told that if they do not pass their Sats they will have to come back in the summer to resit them I think they would revise harder, work smarter and have the motivation to avoid a summer exam at all costs!
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders union obviously disagreed with the idea. He says, “Teachers and school leaders are already working their socks off to get the best possible outcomes for their students. Introducing new performance measures which create unfair comparisons between schools and add to already onerous workload pressures helps neither staff nor students.” If a child is incapable of reaching a suitable level of literacy and numeracy by the end of year 6, then what on earth have the teachers and school leaders been working their socks off on? Literacy and numeracy, unfortunately, can only be monitored through testing. Sure, we can say Sam is a great reader, or Alice is good with numbers, but it doesn’t give us an overall ‘level of understanding’. We need a suitable way to monitor and improve literacy and numeracy levels.
Personally I think both Labor and Conservative have got this one wrong. Literacy and numeracy levels need to improve in the UK. If you make pupils resit Sats, it doesn’t mean they are going to pass a second time round. If anything it will make them feel inadequate, as Anne Heavey, education policy adviser with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers points out, this change could be “a threat to the mental health and well-being of our children”, with the risk that some children would feel branded as “failures from day one”. If you say teachers and SLTs are working their socks off, but the results are not coming in, then those teachers need more training.
One thing is for sure. This policy from the Conservatives has ignited the literacy and numeracy debate once again. The levels in the UK are too low, they should be a lot higher. We have a great educational system, a great history of successfully literates and mathematician so we shouldn’t even have to bring such a movement into question. As far as the politicians go, we all know that they will say whatever we want to hear leading up to an election. They don’t have the pupils or teachers heart at interest, they just want to look like they are doing enough to get a vote. That’s why it is down to the teachers to think of ways to improve the levels, not the PM. – Redemption is possible
Don’t forget to follow on twitter, @