My last post raised a few issues and ruffled a couple of feathers. The main thrust if it was that I claimed that I don’t care about what might turn out to be in the new exams. I stick by that. And I’m a hard-working professional who believes that nothing but the best is good enough for our children. I have never believed that the exam system was the most effective tool in assessing learning of pupils. It never worked for me. There may be a time in the future when I have to care but, until that point- and I really don’t think that it is now – I’ll spend my time trying to improve my classroom practice.
I know there are many issues which make that problematic. Parents, Senior Management, the Press; but the only strength I have in this game is the ability to be the best teacher I can possibly be in the time I’m given. So, in response to some of the replies I’ve had to that post I’ll try and develop my argument.
‘Yeah but the exams are important to the parents?’ True. But how much of that is conditioning. One of the biggest obstacles to curricular change is the fact that ‘we’ve always done it that way’. The school experience of parents was all about the exams. Our experience of school was all about the exams. Do we look back at those days reflecting on our grades? Only if we did well. Too many kids are leaving school with an experience of which we should be ashamed. As Ian Gilbert says in, ‘Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve got Google’ ,
‘I suggest that they leave with no qualifications and a whole crate of baggage about how bad they are. Which isn’t nothing.’ page 18 (Gilbert, Routledge Press)
Are we not duty bound to work with parents to develop a greater understanding of why a change in curriculum is so important? Collaboration is a much used word as we discuss the children’s learning. We want our classroom to be collaborative spaces. We want our Professional Development to be collaborative in its delivery. Working collaboratively with Parents is essential to drive forward the changes we need to make; but it is essential that we do so. For their children’s sake, we must convince parents that the change is required. Teach them well and they’ll pass anyway.
‘Yeah but management still judges us on results.’ Maybe. But ’twas ever thus. Exam results have never been there to judge the children. The government judge local authorities who judge schools who judge teachers who judge kids. The further away from the bottom of that hierarchy means you can wash your hands of the real challenges. Are we really saying that if we improve learning and develop independence in our children then our results will be worse? Teach them well and they’ll pass anyway.
‘Yeah but the pupils need good exam results to get into University.’ Why won’t they still get those good results? There is a really worrying assumption that changing what we do everyday is almost guaranteed to be to the detriment of our children’s education. That does not make sense. If we are really saying that we need exams to assess the progress of our children then look at the stats. We are seriously letting down a huge number of them. Look at the university drop out rates, from the university they tried so hard to get into. The Uni we told them was the be all and the end all. Teach them well and they’ll pass anyway.
Surely there can be no real arguments for retaining the Status Quo? Have you heard the latest Status Quo record? Rubbish. Absolute rubbish. If we are to let the examination guide our teaching then that is what we will get. A tired old Status Quo record with no connection to ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’, whatsoever. And that is my idea of hell right there.
So here’s a thought. If you think your management team will frown upon a department that claims to ‘not care about what might be in the exam’ then don’t tell them. Smile and nod. Tick those boxes that need ticked. But get back to school and start developing a creative curriculum which will inspire every child who walks up your corridor, who passes through your classroom door. If you really believe that if you teach kids well they will pass any exam that comes along then now is your time to prove it. Now is your time. You may never get another opportunity. Now is your time. Now is the time.