Monday, November 01, 2010
The Brain Dead Chimps Guide to Better GCSE Results
Kenny Frederick, the headteacher of George Green's School in Tower Hamlets, writes a column in the Times Educational Supplement, once upon a time she was the kind of headteacher I would have wanted to work for – lots of innovative projects, a school at the heart of the local community and imaginative methods to engage children in learning.
Last year the hammer blow came, the school failed its Ofsted inspection. Social deprivation? Imaginative teaching? Community involvement? Ofsted aren't interested in any of that, they worship only one God – test results. Like any bully they prey on the weak and vulnerable, the great majority of schools that fail inspections are in areas of extreme poverty.
In the film 'Plague of the Zombies' cheerful, outgoing people suddenly acquire a glazed, distant stare; with an Ofsted failure headteachers lock themselves away in a dark room and are transformed into spreadsheet obsessives, they start spouting words like 'targets', 'assessment' and they don't have children any more, they are renamed with labels like 'borderline C/D'.
In Kenny Frederick's latest article she relates how trips, visits, any 'unexpected learning opportunities' and staff training has been cancelled due to pressure from controlled assessments for GCSEs. Near the end is a stunning paragraph -
'Our school has set itself a target of a 10 per cent increase next year in the proportion of getting five A* to C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. We need to achieve such high targets because we must reach national averages – other wise we can never be judged by Ofsted as anything other than satisfactory'.
So Ofsted have now become the supreme arbiter of the value and worth of the school. Where did the mania about being more than 'satisfactory' come from? America, where else? In a recent survey 48 out of the 50 states claimed that their test results were 'above average'.
So how exactly do you 'boost' GCSE results?
Relentlessly focus on the C/D borderline group. SEN? Forget them, leave them to do 'independent research' (a.k.a. playing on the computer) with a teaching assistant or supply teacher.
Pressure teachers for results, make sure you've got plenty of NQTs or teachers on temporary contracts, they are more likely to obey orders without question.
Bribe pupils with incentives like Top Shop vouchers or tickets for football matches. What do passes make? Prizes!
You need maths and English passes so lots of basic skills lessons in the afternoons. Abandon Art, Drama and PE.
The other three GCSE passes? Pick an NVQ with lots of course work (easy to fiddle). Avoid difficult subjects like History, Geography or Languages.
Career advancement note: I really must resign as a teacher and become one of those PowerPoint enabled, inspirational 'consultants' who can charge thousands of pounds for spouting the trite and obvious to hostages packed into stuffy hotel rooms.
Sadly the education press is full of demon headteachers who have 'turned their school around' by 'boosting results'. It isn't education, it isn't learning, it isn't teaching, it isn't inspiring, it isn't difficult – even a brain dead chimp could 'boost results'.