In Praise of Cock-Ups

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It’s been another news-filled week in the world of education. First, Dr Ken Boston, recently resigned head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) came out guns blazing at the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, and then Michael Gove, Conservative Education Spokesperson, announced Tory plans to create Primary Academies.

The QCA seem to have presided over one cock-up after another in recent years. While the latest, the media-dubbed ‘SATS Fiasco’ may have cost Ken Boston his job, there are hundreds of thousands of kids in schools who are about to have a much more rewarding Key Stage Three experience in secondary schools as a result.

Mick Waters (also recently resigned from QCA – what is it about that place?) has overseen a Key Stage Three curriculum review which is bringing about a quiet revolution in schools. Mick is one of those rare people – you will struggle to find anyone in education who has anything but the highest praise for him. Unlike Michael Gove (and successive Secretaries of State for Education), Mick knows that kids aren’t terribly concerned about governance structures or school standards. They can flourish in overcrowded Dickensian accommodation, so long as the teaching and learning going on there is inspiring. It’s the classroom, stupid, but instead the debate nearly always focuses upon everything else but the one thing that really matters.

The best schools (and I’ve been visiting some of them in the recruitment phase of the Learning Futures project) have an sole and unwavering focus upon learning. And Key Stage Three has been the place where they’ve been losing their students. ‘Disengaged’ is the technical term for it, but it’s far more dramatic than that. They lose their natural love of learning, and can’t see the point in playing the exams-factory game any more. Mick skillfully ensured that the curriculum review didn’t get side-tracked into pointless debates about whether we should study Shakespeare or the Tudors, and instead created the space to talk about pedagogy. All that was needed was the removal of the sword of damocles – the Key Stage Three SATS – and with one bound schools have become free to develop engaging and exciting learning again.

It’s been fantastic to work with teachers who are thrilled about the prospect of responding to students needs and interests, and teaching them stuff that actually matters to their lives, and in ways which involve them in both teaching and learning, rather than force-feeding them exam prep. It couldn’t have happened without the QCA’s Key Stage Three review and the abolition of 14 year-old SATS. Whatever minor impact was felt by parents not receiving their SATS results last year, will be more than outweighed by legions of 11 and 12 year-olds who actually quite look forward to going into school now.

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2 Responses to In Praise of Cock-Ups

  1. Anonymous says:

    Cool

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