Sunday, 17 April 2016

Students First? ....

"The whole point of schools is that children come first and everything we do must reflect this single goal,"  
Academy principal/ Chief Executive

That quote is taken from the Teen's Academy website. The Teen's Academy also emblazons the tagline 'Student's First' on all its literature and its website. Trouble is, it seems those students are very much the last to come first in the current educational climate.

The Teen's school is one of the largest in England and became an Academy in 2009 while the Twins were there. It was one of the first in the country to attain Academy status, and since then has expanded into a Family of Schools featuring a chain of different schools all over the country with the former headteacher, as the chief executive, in control overall.

And though the strict uniform policy has been more than irritating: The introduction of a policeman permanently on site, worrying: The apparent ability of some pupils to sit and re-sit exams until getting the 'expected' grade, a bit like cheating, we've bumped along alright. The Twins left a couple of years ago with excellent A level grades and places in their first choice universities.

The Teen is now in Year 10 and, after the Academy had a 'curriculum redesign,' is preparing to sit her first three GCSE exams in the subject options History, Drama and French, chosen at the end of Year 8. 

From September, as a Year 11, she is to continue studying the core curriculum subjects (English/ Maths/ Science/ PE/ Life Skills) she's studied for the past two years and, in place of her current GCSE options, select another option to add to her final tally of GCSEs. The Teen, earlier this year, selected Art.

Last week, she was among a variety of Year 10 pupils called out of class for a meeting with the "Vice Principal Deep Experience" (actual title). The school, he told them, "would not be running Art" in Year 11. Likewise they would not be running Graphic Design, any language options or Geography. Due, he said, to the lack of pupils wanting to take up a place on those now abandoned courses.

Instead The Teen was offered the choice of subjects that will be available including RE, Product Design, or Media, 

The Teen was, understandably, not happy about this. So unhappy about it that, instead of her customary huff and sigh on her return home when asked about her day, she told us what had happened and it's a good job she did.

Clearly the Academy thinks justification and an explanation to parents isn't necessary, there's been no communication from the Academy about the changes to the expected curriculum or the options available instead. Not one word. Even while the disappointed Year 10s, and there are many of them according to the Teen, are being encouraged to select the only options now apparently available to them.

Thanks instead to some research and friends who work within schools, I know that the new 'Progress8' measures have come into play this summer as part of the four different measures that make up school performance tables. 

Progress8 is made up of eight slots and an arts qualification only fits into three of those slots, one of which is used for studying English leaving just two more. Many schools are choosing to use the two remaining arts slots for more academic subjects which contribute towards the eBacc while purposefully steering pupils away from arts subjects so that the school scores better in all four of the measures that contribute towards the performance tables. (You can read more about the measures used to calculate the performance tables here.)

Call me a cynic but I think the school worrying about their score on the performance tables a much more likely explanation for the sudden pulling of  subjects from the Teen's Year 11 options, don't you?

It's an infinitely more likely explanation than believing Art and Graphic Design are struggling to attract enough pupils while teens are apparently flocking in droves to study RE. A fascinating subject it might be, but I've met enough 14 and 15 year olds to know that religious studies is the very last thing on the minds of most of them.

'Students First' indeed. *Tuts*

"Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself - educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society."

 from The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

*staples to school gate*


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