Why do we keep using teachers as target practice?

19th October 2018, 12:00am
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Why do we keep using teachers as target practice?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/why-do-we-keep-using-teachers-target-practice

On Friday, I entered my performance management meeting with dread and resignation. According to the data, last year my Year 11 class under-performed, and, according to the head, they did so because of me.

To be fair to my department head and line-manager, he appeared to sympathise and diligently noted my attempts to defend my honour. But do you know what? I've lost the will to fight my corner and contextualise my results. Why should I have to? I took on the class last September when I first arrived at the school. Every single pupil was failing. In our first mock exam, the class' highest achieving pupil received a grade 2. That was an exception - the rest were on 1s.

These kids were the most disillusioned and demoralised I'd ever encountered. But at the end of my nine-month stint with them, nearly every single one had improved, notwithstanding the fact that my classroom had become a repository for kids that my line manager couldn't cope with.

Earlier in the year, he transferred four kids from his class into mine - all on grade 1s. By the time they took their GCSEs, two of them achieved grade 4s and the other two, grade 3s.

But this doesn't matter. The pupils' targets - determined by their KS2 Sats data recorded five years earlier - were not met. And that's the end of it. No attempt to empathise with my predicament. No acknowledgement of the failings of the previous four years - failings that saw these kids make little to no progress in the subject. Just a thoughtless, crass demand to effect five years of progress in just nine months.

In hindsight, it's my fault. I should never have agreed to such an unrealistic target in the first place. I was new and I didn't want to rock the boat. You live and learn. That said, I doubt they'd have listened anyway.

Even if my targets had been more achievable, I still find the concept of performance management hard to stomach. How can I be held responsible for results largely determined by an education system dominated by a race to the bottom?

My results last year were achieved despite this. I daren't say it to my line manager, though; he might pass it on to the big boss. She certainly won't appreciate it. She'd rather berate me for missed targets.

Joe Baron is a pseudonym for a history teacher working in London

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