The trouble with schools is that the teachers in them, don’t seem to be trusted. At least that’s how it appears to me.
This is a quick from the heart one – I have a daughter who has been on tenterhooks with regards to her A Level results since her school closed for lock down. Along with all her peers in the same age group, she’s not had a brilliant experience of our qualification system. Her year group were the first to go through the new National Curriculum in England along with the change in grading. They were guinea pigs so to speak, but I guess it had to begin with one year group. (Let’s put aside the obvious question – did the grading system really need that shake up in the first place). Sadly there was more than the usual angst amongst her year group, two years ago around exam time and there were quite a few strange results at the time.
Now two years later her school was closed in March and she was told there were not going to be any exams. She skipped around the house for a bit and then there were tears when she realised she was never going back to school. All the rights of passage stuff was gone and then to top it all Reading Festival was cancelled.
She was told that teachers would be making predictions with regards to her grades, which she initially panicked about because she felt she didn’t get on too well with one of her teachers and was worried about her grade been lower than she would have hoped.
I told her not to worry, “teachers are professionals” I said with confidence. “They know how you are performing because they have all your coursework and the work you have been doing in class. They also know that more often than not, the Mocks are a big wake up call for students and invariably students do better in the final exam. They know you are also still developing and they can see from past grades that your grades have constantly been rising. And let’s not forget your English teacher knew you had a tutor and was aware of the impact this was having and knew you were booked to go on the intensive Easter Revision School (apologies here for sounding middle class here – I’m just trying to illustrate that teachers know all the nuances going on in their students’ lives). Your teacher will have taken all of that into account and so given you an appropriate mark. DON’T WORRY!!”
She did worry though and quite rightly because meanwhile in the background, discussions were happening between people who had never set foot in the school and did not know the level of integrity each teacher had. Nor had they ever met my daughter and did not know how she was progressing in her final year. They thought they knew her though, because they had mock or AS grades (shocking I don’t know which) and they also had the school and subject trajectories for the last three years.
Armed with that knowledge (or lack of it), they down graded two of my daughters centre assessments (Don’t worry this isn’t a ‘bad feelings’ blog, she got the grades to get into her first choice university). Not only that, they downgraded 40% (as reported in today’s Guardian) of all teacher assessments.
Mathematicians out there, tell me please, does this mean that 40% of our teaching profession (note, the word profession the word should be synonymous with trust) is not to be trusted? 40% don’t know their students? The very students they will have taught closely for one and a half years, but who may have taught for up to 7 years?
In a year when schools were assured they would not be held to account for results and headteachers passed down this message through their schools, surely this would be the one year if any that teacher predictions could be trusted? Think of all the work those members of staff did to ensure the predictions were correct. Like my daughter’s school, in my school we met with every head of department, scrutinised their evidence base and questioned any anomalies. Where we thought a grade was too high we questioned it and if the subject leader or teacher could not give a reasonable explanation, we would down grade it. This happened very very rarely and in more cases we found that the teachers were far too cautious. We don’t have a Sixth Form and so waiting in anticipation for next weeks GCSEs.
Students in Wales can use their Mock results if they are higher, but it’s rare when a final grade is lower than an AS grade. It happens, but rarely (apologies if I’m wrong here I’m only going on my experience no hard facts). There’s talk in England that students will be able to re-sit. Who will tutor them for these exams considering they have been out since March? Where will they sit the exams? Will their chosen universities hold their places open for them?
This is all so sad. Young people in my daughter’s year group may become more resilient as a result of these experiences over the past few years, but unfortunately there will be many casualties, especially in relation to mental health.
So, she’s got into her chosen university – great and I’m proud of her, but do we challenge the two downgraded results? I feel we ought to out of principal. My other two children went up a grade between mocks and A levels in all of the subjects they took. My children also developed slower than others from primary onwards, but caught up with the others on their own steam and continued developing and progressing right up to the days before their A Level exams.
My youngest daughter on the other hand, like all those in her year group have not had the same guaranteed deal we (in a sense) signed up to, when she began her schooling and her A Levels. We assumed she would be judged on how she performed after 11 years and then after the full 13 years. Instead the rug was pulled from from under her before she had completed her schooling and a judgement made on where she was 5 – 7 months before she had completed her steadily progressing route towards the final exams.
This may sound a bit emotive, but have her and all of her year group’s UK civil rights been abused by taking away a teacher’s professional judgement? And by doing this has a subliminal message been sent out to the the British public that we can’t trust teachers?
A sad day indeed for the profession.