Monday, 12 May 2008

SATs and stats.

This week my youngest daughter, in her final year at primary school, is doing her SATs. A whole week (more or less)of tests is inevitably stressful – inevitably she thinks it’s a big deal because for most of this school year they have been preparing for them and little else.

Except it isn’t - we know from experience with my eldest daughter that the secondary school will test the kids all over again. But it is a very big deal for the school because the performance of the pupils will be a major factor in how the school is rated. So we have a system which replicates the stress of the old 11+ system without even the carrot of getting a place at a grammar school.

Last week I went to parents’ evening at my eldest daughter’s secondary school. I was half way through a meeting with one of the teachers talking about ‘learning outcomes’ and projecting levels of attainment for the end of the year, before I realised that we were talking about Cookery for fucks sake !

And this is a good school – in fact it’s officially ‘outstanding’; a rare thing, an inner city comprehensive with all the usual
problems that actually out performs the national averages.

But I’m suspicious what all these rankings mean.

They seem very much like the tick-box collecting that we have to do at work to win contracts these days – and I know that they have sod all to do with quality in any meaningful sense. On the contrary they make a fetish of the mediocre.

There are a small number of inspirational teachers; the ones that you remember for the rest of your life, whose lessons often spin off at all sorts of tangents as the kids' interests take them. That is genuine education. I can’t imagine that all those averages and targets leave very much room for them these days.

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