The lowest common denominator (LCD) is useful in mathematics when looking to add, subtract or order fractions. Alternatively, it can be used as a phrase to indicate what a disparate group has in common. In the educational world I sometimes think the LCD is a combination of wanting the very best for our children and young people which is then undermined by our other LCD – a fundamental lack of trust in each other.
If we all have the same end goal why is there such angst between the Government/Ofsted and schools? Equally, the tension between Ofsted and the government is sometimes also palpable as is the tension between teachers and leaders in too many schools. Throw in parents, the local authority and regional school commissioners and the whole thing has become an unholy mess. At the root of so much of it is a lack of trust and when this happens boundaries become blurred with accountability exacerbating things and sending us towards the abyss.
Times tables, a part of the Maths curriculum for years, will now be tested separately and we already have published test data for phonics. The EBacc may well occupy three out of the six main performance indicators for secondary schools. In short, if a minister decides they want something, have a personal hobby horse or think it’s a good idea, hey presto another test or accountability measure appears to whip the profession into line. Cue teachers, sick to the back teeth of being pushed around, lost to the profession and fewer high achieving graduates rushing through the school gates to enter teaching. Not in the best interest of children or young people’s education at all; our LCD, that which ties us together, disappears.
Phonics has much to commend it but the end goal is getting a child to read, ensuring s/he comprehends what they read and ultimately give them a love of reading. Phonics will be a step along the way for many children; see it as that and not the be all and end all and lose it from RAISE otherwise it becomes a de facto accountability measure. Same thinking for times tables; surely it’s not beyond the wit of man or women to write a Maths test which requires children to use the times tables they should have learnt?
The current Government has come up with some madcap schemes in its time but the latest requiring Year 2 teachers to make between 2,000 – 2,500 judgements, for a class of thirty pupils, to assess whereabouts each one is in terms of their writing has to take the biscuit. For Year 6 teachers it could be 5,000+ judgements for a class, if the above expected standards need assessing as well. The sheer stupidity of what is being imposed may well lead to a lot of hot air, raised temperatures, a vote and then a boycott in the months ahead. As ever accountability and intransigence is at the root of much of the evil currently about.
What about asking all the people who have recently left teaching whether they fancy some paid work; sampling, from across the country’s schools, the standard of writing in Years 2 and 6 and let teachers get on with teaching. We might not be able to hold every school individually to account for the standards of writing but we might have higher standards of writing. The current accountability leviathan needs to be tamed before it is too late. If a school is doing well overall, according to Ofsted 70-80% of schools depending on phase, let the school leaders and teachers get on with their jobs including sorting the bits that need improving without fear of Ofsted or Government imposed nonsense … more of this in Headteachers’ RoundTable paper to be released after our April 2016 meeting; as you can probably guess I’ve been writing.
Something has got to change somewhere if children and young people’s education is not to suffer; none of us want that.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.
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