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"Every child will achieve a C". Realistic?

Discussion in 'English' started by mediadave, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. mediadave

    mediadave New commenter

    I've been reading over the transcript from Michael Gove's evidence to the Education Select Committee from a couple of weeks ago. In it, Gove repeats the same claim, that every child should expect to leave school with a C in English and Maths. This is something he's said publically elsewhere along with suggestions that compulsory schooling should continue for those who don't attain that grade.
    Hearing this, I just dispair. I teach in a fairly high-achieveing school (our A*-C for English is over 80%) and even I know that for some of our pupils, a C is completely unrealistic. For some, it's behaviour and attendance which gets in the way; but for others, it's their intellectual ability. I teach a low set class (although not the very bottom) with some students who work hard, are always in school and whose parents are supportive of their education (to a point, anyway). Yet they still write their own names without capital letters and seem incabable of using apostrophes. They talk about the surface features of a poem or the most obvious things in Macbeth because they lack the ability to read between the lines.
    I'm not going to give up on them and at the moment I'm working my socks off to offer them controlled assessment resits, exam revision, extra homework if they want it... but the truth is is that many of them will miss out on a C because they just lack the ability. In the lowest set I know there are worse cases - students who can't write legibly or string a coherent sentence together.
    Isn't this an honest reflection of the reality of school for many everyday students? I imagine in some schools where the A*-C for English is around 60%, there are even more students like this. Yes, some would improve with intervention (which costs money, money that's unavailable much of the time); some would improve with better attendance or behaviour. But for many isn't it true that intellectual ability is what prevents them from getting a C? If so, how do we address that?
  2. sleepyhead

    sleepyhead New commenter

    Last August, on results day, I was hugged madly by two of my bottom set boys. We were bouncing and grinning all over our faces. Local newpaper was there. Over they came, lots of photos taken - reporter asks "So what did you get boys" "E" they both said.
    Reporter puts his pad away and walks off.
    Barsteward didn't bother to ask how hard they'd worked for those, how far they'd come, what it meant. Didn't care that for three years, we'd worked together to make them think that they could do it, nagged so that they got to work with their scribes in class so that they didn't reject them on exam day, encouraged them to encourage each other.
    Gove's an ***. The only way every child will get a C is if we make C the lowest grade and change the boundaries accordingly.

  3. Is Gove's prediction realistic? Well, yes, if if allows for GCSE to be dumbed down. But he's said lots of stuff that doesn't suport that. I suspect, that he's not as bright or clever as the media portray him because if he thinks all students can get a C he clearly doesn't understand - like you and I and most teachers - that a C is beyond some students.
  4. Spot on!
    He seems quite stupid to me.
    The Swedes have been saying that we should not repeat their mistake of going for free schools. Does Gove listen?
  5. By not setting them to fail from the moment they enter school with really silly spellings, by reducing the numbers of the likes of:
    <font size="3"> Read (yesterday), lead (in petrol), </font><font size="3">bread, breadth, breakfast, breast, breath, breathalyse, cleanliness, cleanse, dead, deaf, dealt, death, dread, dreamt, feather, head, health, heather, instead, leant, leapt, leather, meant, measure, pleasure, realm, spread, stealthy, sweat, thread, threat, treacherous, treadmill, treasure, treasury, wealth, weather </font> Jealous, meadow, ready (already), steady, threaten, weapon, zealous,
    <font size="3"></font> Any, many. Friend. said, says, every, seven, Wednesday. Bury. Jeopardy, leopard. Heifer, leisure.

    I know that many people cannot see how such spellings impede literacy (and thereby overall) progress, but they are lethan for slower learners. They don't do they brightest any favours either. The weaker a pupils' memory, the worse they are.

    A comment in today's i paper explains why (although the article is about procrastination):
    Accomplishment creates confidence, which creates effort resulting in more accomplishment.
    The hundreds of irregular English spellings
    <font color="#0000ff">http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2010/11/english-spelling-rules.html</font>
    set up repeated opportunities for failure - for catching children out when they behave logically (frend, sed, bred). The more able and parentally well supported pupils manage to plough on and get on top of them.
    On the lower half of the ability range, their effect is very costly.

  6. sleepyhead

    sleepyhead New commenter

    That seems quite generous to me! Should someone who thinks that every child should get an above average grade REALLY be in charge of education??
  7. mediadave

    mediadave New commenter

    Marsha I don't think it's just about spelling.
    There are children who struggle to spell but still get a C because they can show originality in their use of vocabulary, imagination in their creative writing and can write perceptively about literature. When you look at how papers are marked, spelling is only part of the problem and 'best fit' marking for both language and literature should take that into account.
    In Wales, an equal proportion of children fail to achieve a C in Welsh, even though the language is entirely phonetic. There are very few irregular spellings. Yet students do poorly,again, because their intelligence (in some cases, anyway) prevents them from writing with fluency, from choosing a wide range of vocabulary, from remembering to use punctuation, and from using inference in their reading.
  8. PML79

    PML79 New commenter

    Working in a school at about 60% A-C Eng - the main problems are exploring language in reading (The 'explore' in 'point evidence explore') and accuracy in writing - not just spelling, Marsha.
  9. sleepyhead

    sleepyhead New commenter

    Insight used to be a determiner for a C - that's hard to teach if they can't do it by themselves.
    I find that I award lower marks for poor sentence control than for poor spelling.

  10. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    If it were, the badly dyslexic but very bright girl I taught a couple of years ago wouldn't have come out with A*s, would she?
    Since pupils are now only allowed to sit any GCSE twice, how will this 'keep at it till you leave school' thing work, then?
  11. Oh, it's quite possible. In many ways, it is a target which can be reached.
    1. "C" will be the new grade for the barest minimum. Signing one's name, perhaps.
    2. We will have 40 year olds still in compulsory education.
    3. Students will be so spoonfed that they pass but can't hold an original thought in their minds.
    It is a LOVELY ideal. That everyone has that level of literacy- wouldn't that be nice?! But for various reasons, it's just beyond some people and all this new approach will do (if not the things above) is give one more reasons for teachers to come under fire and make those incapable of a C feel lousy about themselves.

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