An Impossible Choice

This has been a week of blog posts on the subject of what people call ‘accountability’ but what we might also fairly term ‘compliance’. The announcement came last weekend via The Telegraph. A ‘crack down’ on heads ‘cheating’ the system through multiple exam entries (no mincing of words at The Telegraph then).

Ros McMullen pointed out here that “If you … create “cliff edges”, don’t be surprised if every single drop of energy goes into that cliff edge!” Chris Hildrew talked here about the announcement causing “confusion and panic around the land”. John Tomsett pointed out here that “What was good enough for our students last week is good enough for them this week” then goes on to explain the complexity of the dilemma facing head teachers. Tom Sherrington talked here about how we have now got “guessing, tactical maneuvering, and a fair bit of gambling.” And in an uncharacteristically melancholy piece, Geoff Barton talked here about how some school leaders are “starting to give up hope”.

I’m not a head teacher, so I’d agree with John Tomsett that I am no position to pass judgement on those who are. I’ve been struggling with the ‘what is right‘ question all week, and I’m as torn as everyone else. My emotions say ‘do what is right for the kids: do only that’, but my rational side sees the ‘cliff edge’ argument all too clearly.

This week, head teachers have been asked to choose between two things that they love equally well. They are being asked to choose between their students, and their schools. To me, this seems cruel at best, and inhumane at worst.

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2 Responses to An Impossible Choice

  1. Kris Boulton says:

    I remember Daisy Christodoulou saying something along these lines when choosing which A Level exam board to follow in studying the Victorians. One was clearly more rigorous, and would lead to a better education. The other was easier, and might lead to a better exam grade on their CV. Which is better for the students?

    Is the exam question equally problematic, in the long-term? Having seen the system that multiple entries encouraged in schools, I’m in no way convinced that early entry was ever in the students’ interests. It turned ‘education’ into the ‘sausage factory’ of which people speak. I have no love for it.

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  2. bt0558 says:

    A great blogpost by Sue and response from Kris.

    Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) life is filled with such choices. Teachers across the land have made similar decisions to Daisy for a good many years. The decision is a subjective one and perhaps rooted in ones ideology of education.

    I was incredibly saddened by John Tomsett’s post. He is clearly someone who cares, but who is put into a position in which he cannot win and this is surely a recipe for disaster in which the outcome for kids is unlikely to be positive despite his best intentions and efforts.

    Education has always been a sausage factory with working class kids going down the production line and middle class kids in the workshop of the craftsman. More recently I feel that the UK has followed the US lead in trying to “maximise efficiency”, using working class kids as a resource to be exploited rather than an asset to be exploited.

    I think that the early entry has been no different to previous ways in which schools have tried to keep the wolves from the door. Teachers have been addressing the dilemmas of “good for the kids” or “good for the kids” for some considerable time.

    I was struck by John Thomsett’s comment, “I have never worked for a Secretary of State who seems to want to make life for Headteachers as difficult as possible”.

    For me it is the ‘Now i’ve got you you son of a bitch’ Secretary of State that has made already difficult decisions into impossible decisions. Combine that with a Government that ideologically despises public ownership as anti capitalist and I think you have a perfect storm.

    Ofsted and early entry/resits are symptoms of the problems not the causes I think. But we will see.

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