Saturday, September 25, 2010

sixth form education

In an age when, it seems, schools have to measure “success” by their GCSE and A Level results, there must have been many schools who were left reflecting at the end of the summer on the fact that their average A Level results had actually got slightly “worse”. There is an expectation that examination results will improve year-on-year. The trouble is that if you’re allowing more and more students into the sixth form (see my comments made last November!), then I think it’s absolutely inevitable that some of them will struggle – there is far greater onus and expectation on students for individual research, analysis and presentation. Most of them are able to adapt to this different (for them) style of education and to flourish. Others simply lose the plot – they seem completely unable (or unwilling) to come to terms with the need to organise their own time. Clearly, these students need help… or, if they’re simply not up to the diverse demands of A Level education, then perhaps shown the door and pointed in a different direction.
No doubt, this is a problem facing many schools nationwide. You would have thought this might have resulted in consultation with key staff and perhaps a forum for the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, there are schools where this doesn’t happen.
Instead, the powers-that-be decide that it must all be down to poor teaching and that the solution is “to give more work to students and make them all work harder”. I have relatively little knowledge of education but, from my own experience, I know that this sweeping “solution” could have a catastrophic effect on the lives of many of the most able students – who are already working at full capacity – and, indeed, on the morale and motivation of their teachers. Whipping everybody (students and teachers alike*!), just because those less able (or less willing) students might fail to achieve reasonable examination grades seems fundamentally wrong to me. Sadly, I suspect that this approach will also have a detrimental effect on such schools in the medium-/long-term – they will end up failing to attract the very best students into their sixth forms and their average A Level grades will suffer accordingly....
It shouldn’t be like this.
PS: * interesting comment from Moira over supper yesterday: “an organisation that doesn’t respect its staff probably doesn’t respect its clients either”. Discuss!

1 comment:

just Gai said...

Although schools must bear some of the responsibility for pushing students to achieve ever higher grades, they can't be blamed entirely. The top universities are already demanding 2-3 As and will probably be expecting a couple of A*s next year. Schools are therefore under tremendous pressure themselves to ensure that their brighter pupils attain these grades. And then, the greater the number of students who do succeed, the higher the universities have to set the bar to avoid being penalised for exceeding their intake. It's a self perpetuating cycle to which there is no obvious solution.

I also believe it's unfair to expect schools to be the sole provider of education. Parents in particular, and society in general, have an essential role to play in sparking and sustaining a child's thirst for knowledge. Education shouldn't just be a means to an end but to be enjoyed for its own sake. Unfortunately the current examination system runs the risk of turning what should be a voyage of discovery into a route march.

I do agree that perhaps too much emphasis is placed on the academic stream and that more importance could be given to the vocational courses which often carry a stigma.

However under the present government with its policies on 'free schools' and removing the caps on university tuition fees, the future of education in this country looks pretty bleak.