Damned If you Do, Damned If You Don’t

[BPSDB] It would appear that the school-kicking season is in full swing. According to press items such as this, school mathematics is going down the pan.

We’ve been here before, and fairly recently too. The Reform paper was pretty rubbish, has OFSTED done any better?

Not really. The Guardian article linked to above quotes OFSTED as saying that nearly half of school maths lessons are “not good enough” with 10% being inadequate and “45% being satisfactory or below”. To me, satisfactory means good enough but could do better. In the bizarre use of language on Planet OFSTED, satisfactory means unsatsfactory.

The situation is not good but nowhere near as bad as the unsubstantiated “narly half are not good enough” claim implies. Sorry OFSTED; D- for critical thinking. Go to the bottom of the class and write out one thousand times “I must not distort the English language to support my preconceived notions”.

Another criticism is that teachers spend to much time drilling pupils to pass exams and not enough time making sure they fully understand mathematical concepts. That strange thudding noise you hear is that of thousands of teachers banging their heads against their desks in frustration.

For crying out loud, is it surprising that this is happening? SATS and GCSE results are used to compile league tables – schools which are low down in the tables are insulted by the press and Government. Parents withdraw their children so the school appears to be failing and merits special attention from OFSTED. Naturally, school managers are going to want their establishments to rise in the league tables so pressure is put on teachers to get better results. Drilling in exam techniques at the expense of education is an inevitable consequence of that – as are revision classes aimed at pupils on significant boundaries such as that between grades D & C at GCSE.

Teachers have been saying this would happen ever since SATS and league tables were introduced. Government Minister after Government Minister has ignored them. If OFSTED are genuinely concerned about standards of teaching and wishing to raise them, perhaps they could focus on central government’s obsession with targets and micromanagement and not shoot the messenger.


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