It is the end of the school day. You have finished your 6 hours of learning. In every lesson you have worked as hard as you can.You have worked as hard as you can for nearly two years now. This morning, you heard the headteacher talk in assembly about the importance of good grades and how last year’s Year 11 gained the school’s best ever set of GCSE results. You have listened to everyone of your subject teachers tell you your target grade, your predicted grade, your current grade and the % chance you have of reaching your FFT. At the week-end you got cornered in the kitchen by your parents as they lectured you about not wasting your opportunities and your talent. You are going home tonight to 3 hours of revision – as you do every evening.
You are looking forward to the 20 minute walk home were no one can bug you at all. But you are an earnest and diligent 16 year old, so what do you after school instead of going home?
Of course – or go to an extra after school revision class.
The school is providing many each day of the week. In fact there were some in the Easter holidays and there a couple at half term too. You get the impression that there is nothing at all in your life other than revision and work. How many GCSE grade points will you get? How many A-A*? How many A*-C grades? It feels there is no other way of weighing up your value to the school or the school’s value to you, other than by your exams results.
From being a bright and enthusiastic Year 10 with a passion for 3 or 4 of your subjects in particular, you now feel burdened by the never ending expectation and pressure to work and achieve. The joy of learning? More like the over bearing duty of it.
I worry about what we are doing to our teenagers; what we are telling them about what matters in life; what pressures we pushing down on top of them. Just how many extra classes do they need to go to reach their potential?
Teachers, headteachers, governors and the government – we are all to blame. We have begun to judge each other and at other schools by exam passes and grades. We have fallen into the trap of simplification and as a result, the joy of learning and of thinking is being sucked out of our pupils, our lessons and our schools.
If I was to say “Stop! Relax class. Exams aren’t everything. What matters most is how you treat each other” I would be regarded as a naive simpleton. My point of view would not be taken seriously and my teaching methods would come under scrutiny. I would be asked “How do you know if every pupil in every class has made progress in every one of your lessons today?”
Because to far too many people, measurable progress is all that matters in education.