Several years ago I heard a politician announce,”Soon all children will be above average”. It annoyed me, it was such a stupid statement. They may end up above the level that the average is currently at but by the nature of “average”, whether mean, median or mode, some will be above and some below.
All children now, unless they have special needs (is this defined as with an EHCP or just on a special needs register?), must now reach at least the predetermined level of competency in English and maths by the time they leave primary school. If not they will have to redo tests at secondary school, they will be allowed 2 resits though!
Some of the children I have taught over the years have been, strangely enough, below average. They did not have a statement, they did not have a diagnosis, they were not on the special needs register, they were just working at a lower level than that decreed by a politician somewhere in his comfortable office a long way away. Some of these children arrived at school with skills and knowledge a long way below that which could be expected of the average child. They worked hard at school, they made really good progress – for them BUT they still didn’t achieve that magic Level 4. It wasn’t that the teachers who taught them didn’t work hard and try to teach them in appropriate ways. They started from a low starting point, they didn’t always have parental support, some of them had poor attendance… I know these are excuses but they just didn’t get the marks in the test.
Do the men in grey suits think that we don’t want all children to make progress? Do they think we make some children “fail” on purpose? We say to the children that they need to do their best, that you can’t fail, these tests are just to show how well you can do….. now though they can fail and have to redo them when they are in secondary school, and if the secondary school hasn’t managed to get them to pass this test in 3 months they can do it again in another 3 months.
I do want all children to read and write and be able to manipulate numbers so that they can cope in life. I really do. That is why I have spent hours planning lessons, making resources, working with children but I am a realist and know that some children may not make Level 4 at the end of Year 6. I am not convinced that some of them will get it at the end of Year 7 either. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work with these children and keep helping them to achieve these basic skills but is working towards answering questions on a randomly selected choice of texts that don’t interest them or working out how many trees Chen needs to plant for Susan to make £37.50 for the school fete the best way to do this?
It is no longer good enough to be the best that you can be, to achieve your own potential, you must now, unless you have a “note” from someone excusing you, be at least average.