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One primary teacher's open letter to the government: 'The standards expected are now untenable'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    Yes indeed. In some reports I've seen, turnover has actually been cited as a mitigating factor for a school's difficulties rather than a symptom of underlying issues.
    poltergeist likes this.
  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    The Government hijacked what Dylan Wiliams was suggesting re levels to meet their own ends. It was not about abandoning them it was about opening up a dialogue about how the children were taught , how they were learning and how teachers were confusing success and ' fulfilling potential ( how I HATE that phrase ) by 'teaching to the test' and 'getting a result ' .Agree that levels and those deconstructed efforts quoted in the letter were not a common currency - certainly not in my experience. Many many teachers have grown up with this system and cannot contemplate assessment without them - that does not make it fit for purpose though.
  3. al_pe

    al_pe New commenter

    Levels.... No levels.... We definitely need 'a common language'..... what ever happened to the simple symbol and percentage system?
    A (80%), B (70%) , C (60%), D (50%) etc?
    guinnesspuss likes this.
  4. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    In what sense does teaching about English grammar hinder the teaching of English? I'm unaware of any use of English taught in schools which does not employ grammar just as I'm unaware of any form of Mathematics taught in schools which does not employ arithmetic.

    The tests will be embedded within the English language. How could they be otherwise?

    I see no problem with any of this. As professional teachers, staff in a Primary school cannot and should not have any problem with objective measures of their work at the end of six-year period. As responsible adults, Primary teachers can and should teach and administer tests without elevating children and their parents to dizzying heights of anxiety.
    Scintillant likes this.
  5. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    I sense a great big wind up here so I am going to just smile knowingly at these posts
  6. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Nicky Morgan has no sense of humour.
  7. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    I broadly agree Vince but with caveats. In our alternative provision setting, we need a baseline measure of the pupils' ability as to continue using the KS2 or even KS3 data they arrive with, would be bad practice (never mind being just wrong) and could mask any progress made, never mind trying to identify any teaching effects we have (a whole other problem), were we to objectively test them further down the line without correcting that baseline input.

    However, the issue I would have with that, regards what the test score data would be used for afterwards. Lots of people have an input into the life of a young child, and teachers may only be a small part of that. Many teachers may have been involved in the teaching of a single pupil, and given the very unsophisticated way that data is used in schools, I would not like to see that sort of data in the hands of some of the people running our schools.
  8. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Employing grammar and making children learn the names of different grammatical features and testing them on being able to name those features are not the same thing. If you want to make a comparison with maths it's like making primary children learn the definition of terms like logarithm, tangent, calculus, differentiation etc. and testing them on whether they can recognise examples of these things (not solve or use, just identify examples) rather than teaching them arithmetic.

    Because they look at identification of features and not meaning and effect. My point is that these tests encourage the kind of halfwitted Bloom's taxonomy teaching that's become popular; first you identify the feature, then you can analyse it and then you can evaluate it. It has been decided that identification is the "easy" skill so that is taught and tested at Primary. Unfortunately that isn't how language (or indeed Bloom's taxonomy) works. The identification, analysis and evaluation are bound up with one another and the range of difficulty is in the type of feature and how it is used.
    poltergeist likes this.
  9. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I can't speak to any particular issues in your setting, Scintillant, but the purpose of these tests is to determine whether and to ensure that NC content is taught in Primary. We don't need to over-think this. A8, P8 &c are separate issues, as are data-dumb SLTs.
    Scintillant likes this.
  10. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    The correct use of grammar entails the identification of its features. The more you can identify in a passage, the more you can understand that passage. If a grammatical feature cannot be recognised then it cannot be used or interpreted to any valuable effect.

    Yes, I want to make a comparison between the role of grammar in English and that of arithmetic in Mathematics to say what I said, that there is no English taught in schools which does not employ grammar. If you can successfully dispute this and so show that these tests are wrongly founded then do it.

    If a feature is not identified so it's meaning and effect are null & void.
  11. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Sorry, Vince, you are wrong. You don't need to know the names of grammatical features in order to understand language. You can even analyse language perfectly well without the raft of jargon these tests are looking for.

    Yes, teaching English employs grammar. You can use grammar (and we all do) without knowing the names assigned to different structures. We learn language by recognising patterns. It is important to spot the patterns. It is not important to be able to match up a fairly arbitrary set of patterns to the names some grammar "experts" impose on them.

    A little knowledge of grammatical terms can help discuss and make those patterns clear. I'm not saying we shouldn't teach grammar. I am saying that the rather bizarre way the government is insisting it is taught and tested is not very efficient and perhaps even a barrier to real understanding.
    poltergeist and Oldfashioned like this.
  12. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    'Jargon'? Are you serious? Then rather than name grammatical features you would rather point to parts of a passage and say 'this bit' and 'that bit'? How do you refer to the question mark at the end of this immediate sentence without naming it? Do you just call it 'last bit'? How do you refer to the sentence itself without using the word 'sentence'? 'These bits'?

    How the frack are children supposed to use and interpret language without having names for its parts?

    Yes, people are able to communicate at a superficial level by assigning noises in one-to-one correspondences with objects and actions. You know what else can do that? Dogs. If we don't educate children to understand what is said to them and to articulate their positions then, on one level, we're putting them at the mercy of every huckster, conman, advertiser, news editor and crook out there, on another level we're cutting them off from the culture which is theirs by birthright.

    Grammar is not pattern, but if it were still there is no point in being able to spot a pattern if you cannot identify it. Paisley is not plaid. A question is not an assertion. A doughnut is not a sphere.

    Names can be arbitrary but grammar is not.

    Names are the beginning of knowledge. You cannot have a useful discussion about something to which you cannot refer.

    That is the effect of what you are arguing.

    Having earlier derided the authority of experts, are you now setting yourself up on an expert on the efficient teaching and testing of grammar? Make arguments, not assertions.

    This is bizarre. I may as well be talking to Eury. We hear these same complaints from Primary teachers in relation to formal mathematical algorithms and knowledge of multiplication tables. There is no magical understanding floating in the ether which filters into children's brains in the absence of facts and skills. There is no knowledge where there are no names.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
  13. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I haven't argued against facts and skills nor against teaching grammar. I'm saying in this instance the choice of what is to be taught is poor.

    The rest of your post is mainly outraged flimflam which entirely misses the point.
  14. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Easy to say, impossible to show.

  15. acodner

    acodner New commenter

    At least she has chosen to do something - when we all feel so totally powerless, it's the most important thing to do just something we can do - if more of us did that it might actually make a difference...
  16. acodner

    acodner New commenter

  17. gerg27

    gerg27 New commenter

    But 'fronted adverbial', that's just made up innit?
  18. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter


    "This, we decided, would be our secret hiding place for sweets and conkers and monkey-nuts and birds' eggs."

    Does a child need to be able to use the terms syndetic, asyndetic and polysyndetic in order to understand this sentence? Would she be able to think about the effect of writing the sentence like this without knowing those terms? Would she be able to identify what was unusual about it and offer a more conventional alternative?

    I think you could get an insightful analysis of the sentence simply by discussing "lots of ands". Not having a scooby what a polysyndetic list is will in no way hamper understanding.
  19. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    The National Curriculum does not require that Primary students understand, recognise and apply the words syndetic, asyndetic or polysyndetic.

    If you can address any of the counters I have made to your arguments, without insulting them out of hand or misrepresenting the National Curriculum content, then do so and I shall consider what you have to say. If not then you are free to return to educating Eury about oxbow lakes.
  20. Danwaah

    Danwaah New commenter

    As someone who recently changed career to teaching (18 months) after 22 years in another sector I can't help but lay the blame at leadership within the teaching profession. Why should these messages come in the form of open letters from individuals? As a parent I was just happy that my children went to a 'good' school and got level 5's in their SATs (not that I really knew what that meant). I didn't realise the pressure that put on them in the form of targets for their GCSEs as they had to reach an arbitrary level of progress. I certainly was not aware of how inflated SATs scores are - putting even more pressure on the child. Do we need a test at the end of KS2, of course; but let's make it an honest one so that pressure on schools to achieve progress, which is then put onto students, disappears.
    But also, if we want to be seen as a profession, then why are we not acting like one? It's ok that the NAHT or the heads of our unions say that we are not happy, that there is undue pressure on teachers and students, but they never back these words up with actions. How many primary heads are going back to their governors and staff saying, "We will not teach to the test. We will take the results how they come because we know best for the children". How many secondary heads are saying, "Ebacc is not right for all students, so some will take vocational qualifications and sod the fact that our P8/A8 will go down, because we are doing right by the children". Answer, very few.
    I say, let's look to our leaders to do just that. Stop chasing targets and start telling government, OFSTED, parents and the general public that we know what we are doing! A few already do, but it will take all of them, across the profession if we are truly going to see a change. I just don't think they have the balls.
    dancerinthedark likes this.

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