Whilst I appreciate that targets are important, I wonder what the Government is thinking when it threatens to close all schools that don’t reach 30% of 5 A-C grades. Yes, I know there are offers of ‘help’ to inner city schools – some will even get as much as 10,000 pounds to pay for trips and to recruit local members of the community. Hmmm, that’ll go a long way then.
I have worked in one such school and many of the teachers there were the most gifted and dedicated teachers I have ever worked with. They had to be good, otherwise their lessons would deteriorate into chaos. Yet, in our best year, A-C’s reached only 27%. Why? Because there are four grammar schools locally, so it is effectively a secondary modern. I wonder, how does the Government intend to recruit good, hardworking teachers to work in the profession generally, and in ‘failing’ schools in particular, if their jobs will be under threat should the children not reach the magic figure of 30%? Why would anyone put themself through it, just to get a bashing by a government which is itself failing?
Another thing that seems to be forgotten is that academic exams don’t suit all children – just getting them to scrape through to a C in five subjects isn’t necessarily what is best for them. Has Mr Balls forgotten that Every Child Matters? It would seem so.
Mr Balls acknowledges that most of the schools that are targeted are in areas of deprivation. Instead of making schools and teachers the scapegoats for its own inadequacies, perhaps New Labour should be addressing this deprivation and the social problems in the areas surrounding the schools. Then the poor kids that attend these schools and the teachers who work there won’t be further demoralised at being told, once again, that they are useless.
My suggestion? Yes, expect high standards of teaching and learning. Expect high standards of behaviour, but don’t base everything on a magic figure of 30% that, it seems, is plucked out of the air. Look at creating a curriculum that suits all types of children – let more of them follow vocational courses and take part in apprenticeships. In the meantime, let’s address social issues like poor housing, poor parenting and a culture in which it is cool to fail.
Oh, and let’s get rid of any government that fails to improve.