Fiona Millar is fretting:
Are we heading towards a situation in which some secondary schools will find it impossible to demonstrate improvement?
Well, probably, for those at the top. But then again, the further down you are, the greater the opportunity for improvement, surely?
So why are you concerned about them?
It is right to have the highest expectations of all children, but equally we need to acknowledge that “disadvantage” takes many forms. Children eligible for free school meals come from a wide range of ethnic and social backgrounds, often with very different attitudes to education. Schools with disproportionately high numbers of pupils from the most difficult homes will become increasingly vulnerable in this maelstrom of change.
Well, isn’t that why schools are important, Fiona?
So that these children can learn that their family and cultural attitudes to education are out of place, and will not be tolerated here?
So that they grow up to be the future citizens of the UK that we should all be?
I would like to suggest two reforms to deal with this conundrum of maintaining exam integrity and morale, demonstrating improvement and providing a stimulating education.
The first is to tackle our woefully unjust school admissions system once and for all. It is outrageous that some schools can engineer intakes that automatically guarantee better results than their neighbours. The second is to loosen the ties between accountability and exams, possibly abolishing GCSEs altogether. It feels like a qualification that has had its day – and more eminent people than me, such as Sir Mike Tomlinson and the Institute of Education’s assessment expert Tina Isaacs, suggest this.
It would still be possible to have rigorous assessment at 16 without the full range of subjects being examined. It might speed the passage to a real baccalaureate-style qualification at 18 and make education a more engaging experience for children.
A more generous interpretation of what constitutes success could then be shaped around new forms of assessment, removing some pressure from the heads and teachers making a difference in our toughest communities. We need our teachers more than ever, so this isn’t a problem we can ignore.
So, basically, it’s ‘prizes for all, even if we have to redefine the word ‘prize’ itself!’..?