Sunday, 9 July 2017

Ten Reasons Why...

This post follows on from my last one and put very simply is a list of ten reasons I think National Standards need to go.

As I said in my last blog post I believe our education system, across all sectors is under stress and in major need of an honest reshuffle.  One of the reasons for this stress is our testing culture, one that has crept up on us over time, but one now that pervades every crevice of our classrooms.  This testing culture has been amplified with the introduction of National Standards and I believe doing away with these unstandard standards would see a major reduction in stress almost straight away.

So here they are, the ten reasons I think National Standards need to go...

1)They are not standard.  There is no way, without copious levels of moderation and time spent using tools like PACT that they could possibly be standard.  Time spent moderating to prove what we already know about children, is in my opinion, wasted time.  The simple reality is you don't change the quality of the teaching by creating a new way to measure it.

2)There was little to no consultation around these standards.  I don't remember being asked, I don't remember the sector crying out desperately in the night with "we need unstandard standards, please impose them on us."  The 'consultation' I did go to did not resemble a two way conversation in any shape or form, more a 'telling.'

3)They are confusing.  No school is using them in exactly the same way.

4)The first three years is an absolute nightmare.  Trying to time judgements, and ensure children are reported on after their anniversaires is just ludicrous.  So much extra work , for negative value added...doesn't really add up does it?

5)It forces us to label children as 'below' or 'well below' and no matter how hard we try to talk to parents about progress, or to make our comments lovely and personalised, nothing will prevent them from being concerned about these labels, nothing!

6)They cause teachers to rush.  From the moment five year olds enter school they are rushed into academics because for some reason, teachers and principals don't want to look like failures when a high rate of children are recorded as below.  This rush means children miss critical steps in their learning process, they may learn certain parts, enough to 'meet' standard, but crucial building blocks being missed will mean they struggle later on.

7)Schools are compared against each other.  How ridiculous are those tables online?  They mean nothing without the conversation behind it, the back story.  We do not like to look like we are failing children, so in order to meet standard, we force children into acceleration programmes they are not ready for, this learning is never given time to just embed.   This culture of competitiveness has led to a generation of parents preoccupied with how quickly their child advances through the levels and how far ahead they are.

8)For some they have narrowed the curriculum.  Gone are the beautiful areas of the arts, gone the incidental nature of our job, the time for the teachable moments.  The sad reality are these are the areas of learning that children remember, I can't imagine that they will be remembering the guided reading lesson that they took part in, and the learning intentions that really made no sense to them.

9)The standards give us nothing.  We already know where children are at.  We are trained professionals and know best how to guide children to their next learning steps and to talk to parents about how they are going.  We don't need a glossy pamphlet to do this.  Standards have taken away the time we did have to see and embrace childrens talents, that may not have involved reading, writing or maths.  They have taken away those crucial times that can be spent developing the skills and dispositions that children will need to be innovators in the future.

10) They have caused us to feel we have to prove ourselves.  Every judgment must be backed up with copious amounts of data and all the time spent gathering data takes away from the time we should be teaching.  Standards have allowed us to lose sight of the power of the process of learning and to focus on a product that needs to be marked and scored.  The very sad reality is that children are no longer centre of our wonderful curriculum and continuing to work within a system that holds these unstandard standards at the heart of everything it does, will continue to place the real needs of children on the periphery of what we do.  The standards are slowly killing our education system.

There are probably many more reasons I could list, but these are my top ten.
What is my answer?  Well it is simple, go back to what we had before.  We knew where our children were at, we were trained to know this, we just need to be trusted to do our job.  Allow teachers time to teach and not test, appreciate the process and embrace the developmental needs of children, and always remember that what they hold onto when they leave school will be the things that were fun, the learning the emotionally connected to.  The dispositions that we allow them to develop will be those that take them into the future and allow them to be successful human beings.

We have tried with all our might at our school to let the Standards have the least effect possible, we have held onto the arts, the creativity of Mantle of the Expert, play-based learning, outdoor learning etc.

 But the sad reality is that even we have been impacted, it has changed the culture we work in and as professionals we all need to work together to take it back because there is nothing standard about our schools and nothing standard about our children!

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