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Is it time we stopped running league tables? – Chris Hook

Having read some of the recent news about the way some schools are conducting education for their pupils, is it time to stop running the league tables for schools?

This gives the press an absolute field day to slate or praise schools for their results, and we have seen recently how some high achieving schools have reacted to, in their opinion, less than satisfactory results. This has caused considerable heartache to some students and their parents and has resulted in legal action. It has a negative impact in our schools.

Surely we should be considering what is best for the student and not just what is best for the school!

Should Ofsted be a more advisory group of people, able to go into schools offering a support team to improve aspects of the curriculum where there is a need, rather than putting schools into categories?

All teachers want the best for their students and aim to get them the best results possible. Success comes not only from good leadership and good teaching but also from the students themselves. Hard work and effort normally pays good rewards but what about those students who are not committed to their work, will not make sufficient effort, sometimes disrupting learning and are often the ones who do not achieve? It is also imperative that parents support their children and the teaching staff to work together to accomplish what is best for the students.

Are we offering the right courses for them in our schools?

I understand the need to raise standards and have always been one who has the highest expectations of all teachers and students with whom I work, but I sometimes wonder why we need to teach all that we do. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning and particularly mathematics, I understand why we teach aspects of mathematics in order to develop logic and thinking skills but why is it necessary to teach foundation students trigonometry or simultaneous equations? Would it not  be better to focus on aspects of the subject that will help the majority of students cope with the mathematics that they will need throughout their lives?

Should we consider a ”Maths for life GCSE?” as well as the new 9-1 GCSE? Maybe a level 2 Core Maths qualification would fit the bill here instead of the 9-1 GCSE, for those who will still struggle to gain a satisfactory grade in the 6th form?

Are these students switched off because the work is irrelevant or inaccessible for them? And is it also because they haven’t grasped the basics in earlier school life?
What are we doing to ensure that these students are equipped for life? How are we facilitating catch-up where necessary?

A significant number of students will have achieved grade 1, with a minimum of 26 and a maximum of 57 marks out of 240 (23%) and grade 2 in with a minimum of 58 and a maximum of 89 marks out of 240  (37%) in mathematics at GCSE this year – isn’t this telling us that they are not accessing all that we are meant to be teaching them?

Do we need to insist that students stay on until they achieve English and Maths or do we need to find some way of ensuring that they succeed at 16? The large majority of 6th form students find it difficult to improve on the grades that they achieved  in the previous year. Could a “maths for life” GCSE (such as a level 2 Core Maths) take the place of the 9-1 curriculum for some of the students in the 6th form?

What has happened in their education from 4 or 5 years old that has prevented satisfactory or better progress?  And what are we doing to address this? I believe mastery and the new primary curriculum is beginning to address this but not for many of the children who are currently in secondary school and perhaps not in year 6 in some cases.

Maybe with the new standards in primary school coupled with the 9-1 curriculum things will improve, but I expect that there will still be students who are switched off and not focusing in the classroom and we need to consider how we are going to address this.

Why are so many teachers leaving the profession? There is a whole host of reasons from workload to poor behavior and lack of support in schools, but somehow we need to stem that flow. How can we do that?
We cannot afford to train teachers for four years and lose them in relatively few years and nor can we afford to lose experienced teachers because they are too expensive, as is happening in many schools. We need to keep good experienced teachers to help with the development of new and younger teachers so that they in turn will become experienced.

My belief is that we need is a complete attitude shift towards education so that teachers and schools have the support of all parents rather than criticism. That Ofsted becomes a supportive institution and head teachers can see it as such. Also that teachers are supported in both their pastoral and academic progress.
I would like to see all teachers given a CPD allowance, that does not come out of school budget, so that they can attend courses or bring in professionals who can help them and supply teachers to cover their classes.

In July 2016 the Department for education set out a clear description of what effective CPD should look like for teachers but this is not enough:-

  1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
  2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
  3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
  4. Professional development should be sustained over time.

And all of this requires that:

  1. Professional development should be prioritised by school leadership.

Teachers need to be in some control of their CPD along with their line managers, and taking into account the needs of the school, without the pressure of financial restrictions for the school. Teachers should not be put under pressure because they are wanting to be out of school for a period of time. We could pay supply teachers more and have a set of specific expected standards, so that teachers and their schools can feel that attending courses will be beneficial because it will be improve teaching and learning in the long run. Too often teachers cannot attend courses for their own progress because of funding. It is vital that teachers develop themselves as well as their pupils.

In some countries education is seen as a privilege and is valued.

We need to demand the professional status that teaching once had, that needs to be supported by Government, Ofsted and the press in particular. We also need, as a profession, to demand an expectation of good behaviour in our schools so that teaching and learning can take place as it ought, without disruption.

How do we get parents to take more responsibility for their badly behaved and disruptive children? Some schools are doing this very effectively and their students are making very good progress. We must learn from best practice.

Does it help schools that Ofsted categorises them? Recent press suggests that it does not, as high achieving schools and not just those in special measures or requiring improvement, seem to have problems maintaining their status in the league tables.

Surely the pupils should always come first in every school?

None of this is possible without adequate funding from the Government and some serious input from all of us in the teaching profession!

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The author

Chris is a Freelance Education Consultant, and senior leader, with a Leadership and Mathematics Specialism. She support Leadership teams in Teacher training, accelerating attainment, behaviour management and Mathematics in primary and Secondary schools.

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