oh come on … of course it’s not a genius idea.
Right … brace yourself.
The idea of resits in year 7 for any students that didn’t get a level 4 in English and Maths in their SATs in year 6 has raised its head again. It appeared at the end of the “timelines” published by the DFE on the 8th Jan ( the academy link is HERE ).
I’ve blogged (let’s just say I wasn’t enamoured) about this idea before the election when there were all sorts of headlines about what the government was going to do to “kick ass” on this subject. It has come back to haunt us. I had thought it had gone away especially given that the funding for transitional summer schools (remember these?) had been cut!
When the idea was mooted, around April of 2015 as part of the election campaign there was lots of “oh and we’re already giving support for secondary schools of £500 per pupil who has struggled in their primary school tests” (catch up funding). It sounds like a great soundbite until you factor in that the government just announced the summer school funding is being cut – does the government want more “bang for their buck”?
Firstly the practicalities – I apologise for my thoughts jumping around but hey! I’m just gobsmacked at this idea actually coming to fruition:
Where a student sits their key stage 2 SATs papers in the summer of year 6 and they gain a sub-level 4 on arrival at secondary school we know that they will have to resit in about 3 months. Let me tell you that most schools will have done some form of benchmark test on arrival and in lots of cases we see how the levels that were reported at key stage 2, often bear no resemblance to those that they gain in September … so what do we do? Should we only focus on those that were “reported” as sub –level 4? Of course we don’t, but it will only be those kids that are “singled” out as having failed. Lots of this can be put down to the fact that in many cases the students will have done NO FORMAL MATHS for up to 8 weeks and this will have a backwards impact – so we have an even bigger hill to climb!
Often these students have found maths tough at primary – lots of them with be SEND (is this being taken into account?? .. YES IT IS APPARENTLY …. will we see an increase in SEND students?) and so let’s subject them to more tests. That’ll work … of course it fecking won’t! I see part of the task in year 7 as getting ALL our students to want to come to maths and to enjoy the subject… if we get them being positive about the subject we’ve overcome one hurdle but what will this retest do to these students?
Many secondary school teachers especially those who have joined the profession since 2009 have no experience of formal Key stage 3 tests … never mind resits of key stage 2. Most of us will have never even seen a key stage 2 test and given that this starts in December 2017 (with papers available in December 2016!) when are we going to get the time to familiarise ourselves with the exact content. I just hope that there will be lots more information about these tests in the next few weeks – because all we’ve got to go on are articles containing previous “soundbites”. We shouldn’t be trying to put “two and two” together … the profession is being dealt with like mushrooms. One of the articles from April suggests that testing would be a “slimmed down” exam of year six English and maths but would include some material from the year seven secondary school courses. This just shows how little this “spokesman” knows … there is no national year 7 programme of study so how on earth will they know what to include in the tests.
It is also suggest that “Pupils taking resits would still be taught in their usual year group” … hmmmm … really … given that other soundbites suggests “we” are going to be held accountable and it will be used to “red flag” schools for accountability purposes do you really think schools will not hothouse these students? My concern is that where schools don’t stream in years 7 and 8, they will start forming “sink” groups even earlier than they do today … or even worse the curriculum for some students will consist purely of English and Maths which makes me really sad!
THE BIG POINT HERE … SAYING IT LOUD …
How on earth are we supposed to get these students to a level 4 in 3 months when their primary school had six years and weren’t able to do it? How on earth can we, in secondary be held accountable? The potential for labelling a secondary school as failing under the auspices of these resit results is massive … what happens then is a forced academy! Brilliant the government achieves its aim of every school being an academy through stealth.
For me this is just another nail in my teaching coffin – not because I’m sh1t at my job (I’m not) but I know looking at past data (not current!) that of those students that arrived sub level 4 don’t make the grade by Christmas and some take even longer than that! I know that ultimately the secondary head teacher will be the most vulnerable but for the profession this filters down to increased pressure on TLR positions – it will stop maths teachers wanting to take on responsibility for key stage 3 – often the start for further progression and if there aren’t good progression prospects why start teaching at all?
As to the students; I’ve barely mentioned them but it is so very harsh to put students that struggle under even more pressure. Not only are they having to cope with moving (in the main) to a bigger school and all the changes this involves but we then have to prepare them for these tests. What if they “fail” again? How will this make them feel?
I fail to see what the government is trying to achieve. How much progress can these students make between September and December? I jokingly tweeted “we’re good but not THAT good” and I mean that … we are being asked to deliver what primary schools weren’t able to whilst dealing with all the other stuff that comes with moving to “big school”. The only students that could possibly pass these tests would be those “near-misses” at key stage 2 … the easy wins … but it isn’t these students that need the support early on. It is the long shots. The weaker students. These won’t be helped by 3 months intensive maths practice – they need more than that. They deserve more than that!
Now let’s consider the wider system in which we operate: First up I have to ask the question where was the consultation on this? No one would deny that we have to improve outcomes for all students at all levels (I won’t mention the fact that KS4 outcomes can never improve beyond those at KS2!) but this is a fundamental change and surely the views of the profession count for something? If our views count for nothing every other consultation is a farce and just paying lip service to the process.
The accountability measures that schools of all types are subject to are the cause of many of the ills in education – we have yet to get our head around how attainment 8 and progress 8 will work, especially given that the whole key stage 4 and 5 assessment system across every subject is being overhauled so why introduce yet another measure? Trust me …if you are at a loose end check out some of the reports and evidence on the education select committee website – it is my bed time reading and time-and-time again school accountability is mentioned. Instead of finding a cure, we seem to be just subjecting education to more and more germs and viruses and the last thing we need right now is more accountability measures.
Is it any wonder teaching has an image problem? Teachers are amazing people who want to do a good job – we don’t have all the solutions but we are certainly better suited to come up with ideas for improvement than more accountability, more testing …. Can’t they just see there is only so much the profession will take before we start to revolt and at the end of the day the only thing that keeps some people teaching is their goodwill and a reminder of the difference they are making every single day to their students … but that goodwill will only last so long.
I have one (three??) word to sum up my thoughts on this … FFS
Actually … that was quite restrained for me.