One of the greatest concerns to headteachers must be how the performance of their school is judged. Targets have an integral flaw. They can be manipulated, misinterpreted or downright misleading.
The primary function of the schooling process is to prepare children for adulthood and the potential to enjoy a career that provides income and interest. But our schools are primarily judged on the number of children that achieve exam passes at a certain grade. And the thrust of any headteacher is to somehow meet their pastoral responsibilities whilst simultaneously hitting exam passes that will generate reward and reduce pressure from inspection bodies. A concern is how the teaching resource can be applied to achieve the pass targets. Children in the statistical mean stand a good chance, but those out of contention are often sacrificed. Spending too much energy on the struggling pupil will dilute the progress of the mean. They can be all but abandoned, their true potential never realised for the sake of hitting a target of the majority.
Similarly the gifted child may equally struggle. The absence of the exceptional teaching focus needed to stimulate their latent ability means they languish unstimulated and can easily switch off. But this is the status quo. The system could be developed and refined with time but the chance of this occurring is habitually interrupted by the constant flow of massive changes introduced by the Department for Education (DfE). The National curriculum has been hacked, rejigged and transformed with alarming regularity. The GCE were replaced by GCSE’s some 28 years ago. This was enhanced though the optional International GCSE (IGCSE) which many schools saw as a more relevant qualification in the global markets and a more rigorous assessment of ability. Recently the IGCSE was discounted from any target measurement and there was even talk of reverting to the GCE.
And now the backlash. Firstly let us not forget the thousand’s of children whose education has been hijacked; striving for qualifications that may have disappeared, applying for jobs where the employer has a confused view of the achievement. We then have teachers and heads who are constantly rejigging the teaching resources to meet the prevailing curriculum, and can be ill judged by modified targets. Akin to starting an athletics race where half the field are running in the opposite direction and a quarter are then told to reverse their direction half way through the race. The rules being relayed to the runners and umpires over the tannoy system as the race progresses. The interpretation of a schools performance is confused and complex. Parents, schools, school children and employers can but stand and stare as the melee develops. One hard fact that is emerging; the DfE and Secretary of State for education are the ones who desperately need to go back to school.