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10 Scary Facts about School

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  1. Under proposed new assessment guidance for tests for 11 year olds, if your child scores 5 out of 6 for their ability to change nouns to adjectives by adding prefixes/suffixes, they’ll end up with a grand score of 0. For more on this, read this article from the Cambridge Primary Review.
  2. If your child does SATS tests in the next year and beyond, they are expected to be writing, reading and doing maths at a level previously expected of a child at least a year older. The “expected” level has risen dramatically. If they fall short, they will have to resit in Year 7.
  3. The baseline tests given to your child when they are 4 will be used to predict their outcomes aged 16 – a trajectory that completely ignores that children develop at different rates or that in reception class some children are almost a year older than others. Teachers and schools will be judged against this benchmark. Very few children progress in a nice, neat line.
  4. The skills and knowledge in the grammar tests for 11 year olds are more advanced than those expected of GCSE.
  5. If your child sits GCSEs or A Levels, you need to know that these exams are not consistent from year to year. In addition to the tinkering of grades (moving away from A*-G and towards 1-9) and content, there are anomalies in the marking. Last year saw the greatest number of requests for remarks ever, but the most successful requests were those that came in early. If your child needs a remark, get the application in as fast as you can. In addition, there are anomalies and discrepancies in the ways that the results are decided upon. It’s possible for your child to get a higher mark than someone who took the test last year, and yet still get a lower grade because boundaries are set to make it look like the results are roughly the same every year. Read this for more information.
  6. Over the next four years, an extra 300,000 children will need a place at secondary school due to rising population. Yet 59% of secondary schools are oversubscribed now. This shortage of places is being exacerbated by the teacher shortage. More teachers left the country to work abroad last year than applied to become teachers. Almost 50% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years of qualifying. If you want a teacher in front of your child, things need to change.
  7. 50% of jobs secured by graduates didn’t require a degree.
  8. Most of the apprenticeships created by government go to over 25s – and many of those are already employed by the companies who rebrand them as apprentices so they can pay them less.
  9. School budgets have been hit so hard by cuts that many are now asking parents for donations in the form of monthly direct debits or one off contributions. This is a growing problem and a challenge to the idea that education is free at the point of access. See this report in Schools Week.
  10. The public’s interest in education is at an all time low. This creates a situation in which changes can be made without protest. For education to change, parents need to take charge. Teachers will always be dismissed as moaners. Parents are considered to be voters. Whatever our political persuasion, we need to demand research led, rigorous policies that are in the best interests of children, not businesses and politicians.

What can we do? Arm ourselves with knowledge. Ask questions when we go into school. Ask questions of our politicians. And ultimately, if we worry about the integrity of tests, we should exercise our parental rights and boycott them.

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Author: debrakidd

I am the mother of three boys and for 21 years was a teacher. I now write about education mostly and travel the world trying to spread the word about how children learn.

18 thoughts on “10 Scary Facts about School

  1. And, what’s more, this all (further) alienates and disadvantages children and young people with additional needs. We should be creating a system that celebrates range, diversity and progress. Instead we are entrenching a system that advantages (but does not necessarily push) the most able, makes the middle – the hump of the bell – vulnerable, and acts as though our lowest ability students don’t exist. People choose to go in to teaching because they want to get things right for children, so no wonder so many leave! Even if it is unconsciously, it is unsettling to be forced to work in a way that does not constitute ‘getting it right’ for every child for whom you are responsible.
    Thanks for this article. It has created clarity around a number of issues I was aware of but, previously, less clear on. Now I’m angry again, and I do my best work when I’m angry. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. Mixed picture re adult apprentideships. Many engineering companies take older apprentices from their existing workforce and retrain them as engineers. So new jobs in shortage area in same company. They don’t cut the wages; they just re-skill people who took different paths at school. Across my sector, employers tend to give ‘new’ apprentices the real minimum wage, with increases each year. Typically £14k+ to £20k by end of 3 yr apprenticeship.

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    • There are some genuinely good schemes and employers there. But the publicity that there has been a large increase in high quality 16-18 apprenticeships is simply not true. We need to publicise where the good schemes are.

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  3. Pingback: 10 Scary Facts about School – @taylor_teacher

  4. Thank you so much for this article. For my part, resigned outrage fights with the occasional spasm of activism. Why do you think general interest in education is at an all time low?

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    • Well the survey was done in the run up to the general election last year and I think it had more to do with the low priority it was given in the media and by politicians. No-one mentioned the impending teacher shortage for example. Now the tests changes are biting and more and more parents are realising that their kids are taught by supply teachers, perhaps things will change.

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  5. why spend so much time testing children?? It outs unwanted pressure on the childten and teachers.

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  6. I have two young children, the eldest of whom has just started school. Being the type of person who likes to research everything I looked through some blogs, forums and twitter accounts in the months before she started ,and have been sucked into the, frankly odd world, of edu-twitter.

    As a parent I want my child to be happy at school. Do I want her to learn lots? Of course, but no school could possibly cover the breadth of interesting things there are to learn. I want her to be able to read and write fluently and to have a good grasp of maths and some scientific concepts. Now, from reading blogs, I know there are some people (usually not teachers who actually have to deliver the lessons or with children in the school system) who would say “but ALL children need to know X, Y and Z” and demand a very centralised approach with a strict curriculum, taught by textbook and tested.

    Let me be frank, I don’t care whether research, or cognitive science, shows that this rote learning by a non-smiling teacher would lead to an average skills increase of 3% and boost GDP by £10b a year by 2031. If it makes my children less enthusiastic about going to school ( a battle we are already facing when my 5 year old, who can read well, complains she doesn’t like phonics at school as it is so repetitive) then it isn’t a price I am willing to pay.

    Looking at what is demanded of 7/10 year old children in KS tests, in some cases things I have never encountered in 36 years on this planet, I can’t help but think “what is all this for”? No every child doesn’t need to be able to do long division by hand. No every child doesn’t need to be able to understand what a fronted adverbial is. Clearly there are very many happy, successful adults who can’t do things that people say are vital for primary aged children. I sent the KS2 Grammar test around to my group of friends, almost all of whom are graduates (some Doctors, some lawyers) and the general feedback was “What is this?!”

    I am not arguing for ignorance. I am arguing that there is so much interesting stuff in the world that tying every child down to some narrow curriculum, because it is easier to test, is a betrayal of what education should be about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comments really resonated with me Tim. Yesterday I attended my son’s Year 4 parent’s evening. His teacher was anxiously trying to explain to me why, despite the fact that last year he was “exceeding expectations”, this year, he might only “meet expectations” and perhaps in one or two of the 50 sets of criteria she was measuring him against for maths, he might fall “below expectations”. I said “I don’t really care about expectations – I realise how unrealistic they are. I’m just happy that in spite of everything he still enjoys school and I think you’re doing a brilliant job.” She almost sank under the table with relief. She would have had to have 29 similar conversations last night with parents who might not have an insight into what’s happening and who might have only understood that their child seemed to be falling behind. It’s such a shame and really important that we keep a sense of perspective and keep our children’s well being at the heart of what we say and decide.

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  7. I teach at a Rudolf Steiner School in New Zealand and I know that there are many over there in the UK. I am not an occultist, or preach Dogma or anything radical. What I do know is that the Steiner Philosophy recognises that children all develop at different levels and stages of their lives and testing and academic “learning” is done at a later stage. Children don’t start primary school at our school until they are 6 yrs of age. We want them to learn to play and socialise, give them time to be children and immerse them in story telling, games, drawing and music. This way, when they are ready to begin their intellectual learning they are free thinkers and adapt quicker. I have only been teaching there for 2 years but I can see the huge difference between what your government is espousing and what we do at our school.

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  8. This is scary stuff ! Am I to presume its being ‘smuggled in’ on the dark side of the EU Referendum barge ?

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  9. As a governor of a primary with a background in education myself, I can only concur with your analysis. I have heard stories of teachers leaving training sessions on the new assessment framework in tears. One member of staff reports teaching material to Year 1 that she had previously taught to Year 3. And this is an interim framework – once the children have sat the tests and the national standard has been decided, it will change again. There isn’t space to rant about the insane simultaneous reform of GCSE and A Level, or the fact that the government has missed its recruitment targets for 4 consecutive years. The overriding fact is that our schools are set to be engulfed by a perfect storm of flawed assessment, a confrontational inspection regime and fragmented recruitment and admissions procedures, all caused by ideologue zealots with no understanding of the impact of their lunatic policies on ordinary children and the heroes who teach them. Time for parents to seize back the initiative. Boycott the tests and bombard your MP with awkward questions. They say we should be more like Finland. How we can emulate the Finns by doing the exact opposite of everything they do is beyond me.

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  10. This is so succinct! I’m struggling to home educate my 4.8 yo through (my) illness having kept her out of the (frankly scary) new style EYFS reception year. I’m completely horrified at times by how much the system has been warped since the days of my secondary PGCE. The very aspects that I couldn’t stand about Primary teaching, (the wishy-washy child and play centred, unstructured slow-moving curriculum), were what made it a halcyon time for many of Britain’s children. Now it’s all gone in favour of a corporate, pressured environment which is completely toxic to teachers and children alike, even in the loveliest of small village schools.

    It’s just so wrong! Yes it had it’s faults. It wasn’t as streamlined as secondary school teaching. Yes, it wasn’t as efficient. And OMG yes you needed a high tolerance for childish dramas. But Primary teachers were by and large a warm-hearted, smart and deeply caring bunch who made it all look so easy. It wasn’t easily quantifiable, but it worked. Now they’re trying to quantify it, and keep proving it doesn’t work. Destroying it some more, then measuring their destruction and finding it still doesn’t work.

    Well, education will never deliver completely quantifiable results, simply because a good education builds a stable, capable, human. Not an educational unit. The kind of human with the poise and confidence to express their humanitarianism by helping people in need. I’m humbled by the young people I see in Calais and the Mediterranean helping. I often wonder where their big hearts and capable brains come from. Looking at today’s primary schools, I’m fairly confident we’re only a generation away from catastrophic levels of self-centredness and isolationism.

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  11. Pingback: What I’m Into (Feb 2016) | Tanya Marlow - Thorns And Gold

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